A big question, and a big week at the Chamber this week.

We started the week with the launch of a new government agency – Development WA. Development WA is the product of the merger of Landgate and the MRA and designed to shape the development in the state. Mid-week I opened the Politics in the Pub with a response to this opening question and ended the week with the publication of our local election candidate responses on their policy position around our 3 big questions.

The Fremantle Network’s Politics in the Pub Debate at the Local Hotel last night proved an eye-opening experience. John Dowson began the discussion by raising the importance of more car parks for the City with a levy for developers that remove car bays.  Fellow candidates then explored the role of local vs state government on climate change, mental health, housing, anti-social behavior, transport links to the south and east and our retail offering. I encourage you to read our local candidates’ responses carefully and actively vote at the up-coming election.

In my opening address, I re-iterated the crucial importance of attracting more people to live, work and play in our Port City. People that can change our negligible population growth over the last 5 decades – largely untapped by the resource boom of recent times.

The Fremantle FACT based special report notes that Greater Fremantle now accounts for only 1.9% of metro Perth and Peel’s total population – compared with 10.1% in 1947. It is hard to get the attention of State government or Federal decision makers with such a low population base.

We have managed a huge shift in our economy from 1947 where Manufacturing made up 23% of our local business, supported by Transport and Storage businesses at around 19% to  a dramatic shift towards Education and Training (12%) – thanks Notre Dame, Health Care and Social Assistance (14%), Professional and creative services (12%), and Property and Construction and Retail Trade both on 8% of business in the Greater Fremantle Area.

So, with this changing industrial base in mind and if it is people we need where to they come from and how do they get here?

We can’t just keep talking parking – let’s think of ourselves as unashamedly urban – you wouldn’t expect to find a car park directly outside convent garden in central London, but you would expect to be able to get there easily by bus or train. Our Southern and Eastern Corridor transport links are non-existent, yet we know it is these communities that regularly come into our city.

We need to be able attract the residents of a Kwinana based Westport (if that is the ultimate outcome), the Kwinana Industries Area, the AMC, the Murdoch education and health precinct and other growth areas to attract their workers to live here in the heart of Fremantle. We know Fremantle is an attractor for those businesses, particularly with an internationally experienced background, so let’s make sure they can easily get in and out.

We also need to find unique ways to tell our stories to all those who want to listen – stories of our Heritage – indigenous and post settlement stories in equal measure – stories of a rakish city, a city with texture, and a quirky venue or attraction on every corner. From independent travelers to our state based public servants to our tour operators to ourselves…we need to individually build on the This is Fremantle brand with certainty and conviction.

We must get better at connecting the dots and promoting what we have rather than tearing it down – we have a world leading university that has restored the west end…lets focus on that young energy, knowledge and innovation in a similar way to the Knowledge Quarter I discussed last week.

I think with people, energy, development and some great stories to tell we will make Fremantle a better place.

I am so looking forward to further refining these thoughts at our Leaders Lunch event in a few weeks. I encourage you all to invite your clients and colleagues and join in the conversation.  Our esteemed panel will be sharing their vision and perspectives on Fremantle and the diversity of our local economy. It will definitely be a collision of ideas, perspectives and thought leadership.

I also encourage you to attend the focus groups for Blue HQ’s Harbour Connect Consultation to have your say in any changes to our iconic Fishing Boat Harbour.  This follows my attendance at Department of Transport (Maritime) Local Planning Policy Review Workshop which provided a unique perspective on the future vision for Fishing Boat Harbour.

We are looking beyond our harbour shores and to new markets in our next Set the Month in Motion Forum and Podcast on Wednesday October 2nd. This FREE building capacity seminar, supported by the City of Fremantle, gives us a chance to stop and reflect as we listen to the stories of how others are addressing challenges within their business.

Enjoy the long weekend and I’ll see you on the upside at Set The Month in Motion next Wednesday.