CREATIVE thinking is the essential ingredient for the Clarence Valley to ensure two important projects are not just five-year flashes in the employment pan.
All hopes are pinned on the upgrade of the Pacific Hwy and construction of the new Grafton Bridge to inject jobs and money into the community.
The temporary booster-shot is welcome, but Regional Australia Institute research reveals strong leadership, positive perception in the community and most importantly entrepreneurship are indispensable to prolonging the boom.
The RAI compared two similar towns, Goulburn and Orange, and investigated why only of them was thriving.
The findings can be translated to regional towns all over the country, especially somewhere such as Grafton on the cusp of a major opportunity.
"It's about saying why are they so different - why is Orange seen to be the place to go and Goulburn not," Regional Australia Institute chief Su McCluskey said.
"In actual fact Goulburn is successful but perception plays a part. That leadership is so important and that level of confidence," Ms McCluskey said.
Grafton Mayor Richie Williamson agreed "getting runs on the board" was vital to the region's future.
"Down in the Valley, we have done it pretty tough. I have to be realistic about that," Cr Williamson said.
"There have been difficult times but there are signs of growing confidence in the Clarence Valley and that the coming period is our time to shine," he said.
Grafton was hit by the global financial crisis, the demise of manufacturing and widespread job losses, including 114 from Telstra and 108 from the Grafton jail.
But recent months have had government jobs coming to town and the promise of more.
"Those two projects alone will bring a great amount of investment," Cr Williamson said.
Grafton Chamber of Commerce and Industry board member Des Harvey said the economic recovery was a slow process.
"I think the business community is mildly optimistic, but there is still a long way to go," Mr Harvey said.
"I know a number of councillors have good intentions but I can't say anything terrible positive about what they've done for the business community."