'You can't turn Grafton into a Yamba'
TRADING on the assets of each town in the Valley is a key part of Bernard Salt's economic vision for the region.
The demographer was clear that "you can't turn Grafton into a Yamba and neither should you" and stressed the need for the communities to "work in concert with one another".
"Grafton can be an administrative centre and education centre - all of the mechanisms that you need to run a community of 50,000-60,000 people," he said.
"Then on the Yamba coast you can have all the lifestyle industries, the Pilates studios and the handmade markets.
"They are not in competition. Each town and each community specialises in its natural attributes, leveraged to the max."
So what does the region's economy look like today?
Of the 13,000 jobs added in 2000-19 in the Coffs/Clarence region, 8000 were in construction and 5000 in health, and while this was common across the whole of Australia, where we differed was in areas of professional services and education and training.
"Professional services, doctors, accountants, IT professionals and engineering, those jobs are contracting in your area," MrSalt said.
"In 99 per cent of of other places in Australia they are expanding.
"I think that comes down to getting the education mechanisms and the aspirations and the culture right."
For those people concerned about the end of the infrastructure boom, Mr Salt said "these things have a long tail" and, unlike mining booms, they did not tend to end with a "thud".
But he stressed the need for the community along with political leaders to be talking about the "next generation of projects".