ALARMING: Nation's worst economic slowdown tipped in Coffs
THE Coffs Harbour boom might be over with a new report predicting the region will grow at less than the national average over the coming 14 years.
Regional Australia Institute has predicted Coffs Harbour's compound annual growth rate between 2013 and 2031 will be 2.3% - below the national average of 2.9% and equal lowest in the nation.
In contrast, between 2001 and 2013 the region grew at 3.1% and was just outside the 10 fastest growing regions.
RAI chief Jack Archer said the predicted growth was "disappointing" for Coffs.
"I'd hoped there was an opportunity to do better getting people into the workforce," he said.
"What we need to see in the area is a surge in start-up businesses. We want Coffs to think about developing interest in the start-up sector."
But Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce president George Cecato said the region was targeting new industries and running programs to highlight and reward local start-up businesses.
Mr Cecato said although there had been a recent tourism downturn, the region's agriculture industry was ramping up.
"Agriculture is now our main driver in the region," he said.
"We've become Australia's main grower of blueberries and we're seeing raspberries coming up now. We're starting to be recognised as a food bowl."
Mr Cecato said aged care and education were becoming increasingly important for the region.
"Tourism will always be important for us, but we're seeing how important aged care will be and there's a lot of talk about how bigger education is going to be for Coffs," he said.
"Eventually I'm expecting agriculture to be our most important industry, followed by aged care, education and then tourism."
Mr Archer said the research showed regional Australia was a vital part of Australia's economic future.
"What we're getting at the moment is people looking at the latest 12 months of data and saying it's all about Sydney and Melbourne," he said.
"But when you look at the long-term performance it's not the view that really holds up.
"You hear a lot about how regional areas are struggling, but the economic modelling shows over the medium term they're going to be fine."
Local government alliance Regional Capitals Australia praised the report and its chair Shane Van Styn said the report showed population size was not the only economic indicator.
"This report is essentially saying cities of all sizes are dynamic - the idea that regional cities are and will continue to be a drag on our economy is clearly fanciful and fiction," he said.