AT A meeting of minds yesterday morning, business brains were told "watch this space" in relation to university interest in the Clarence Valley.
The Grafton Chamber of Commerce held its regular business breakfast, but as a result of the recent downsizing of Grafton Jail and increased community concern about the economy, it was "bigger than Ben-Hur," according to chamber president Jeremy Challacombe.
"We're pleased the government is looking at additional jobs.
"But this is the most recent closure to happen over 40 years."
He said the community could do nothing, but he'd never seen it so upset and said we needed to move forward.
"Why have we lost so many jobs? Is there something we can put our finger on?"
Mr Challacombe, who is a producer, said he felt agriculture and timber were some potential areas of improvement and should be considered in a 20-year plan.
The Daily Examiner shared its idea for a campaign called Our Time Now and suggested a forthcoming community forum gather some of the best business brains, community organisations and interested parties in town for a workshop and also said it would be doing everything in its power to keep the politicians accountable for the job replacement promises.
The issue of academic presence in town was also raised as a possible pipe dream and a university presence will be in the new Grafton Library.
Clarence Valley Council deputy general manager Des Schroder said he couldn't say too much at this stage but things on the university front "were happening" and there may be some news "early next year".
Mr Challacombe's ears pricked up at the suggestion.
"My father was one of the committee that didn't want any of those long-haired people here back then," he said ruing the missed opportunity.
Local member Chris Gulaptis said the jobs promised by state government wouldn't be a replacement for those lost at the Grafton Jail but "jobs that are long overdue".
He said he'd been talking to the minister about the Pacific Hwy and had asked for any "shovel ready" part to be given priority.
"We need to look at investment in the private sector," he said.
"The infrastructure fund and trade and investment program is about growing jobs."
He said agriculture, the highway and timber industry were "what's happening in the Clarence right now."
Agricultural research stations, the benefits of NBN and concerns over coal seam gas and the diversion of the Valley's water into the Murray-Darling were all issues raised at the business breakfast.
Mr Challacombe said the chamber would have an executive meeting in a couple of weeks before drafting a plan.
Do you have big ideas for the Valley? Email jenna.cairney @dailyexaminer.com.au.