Business growth and entrepreneurship in the Riverina will be in the spotlight at an upcoming conference in Wagga.
The Regional Innovation and Small Business Conference, by 8point8, at the Civic Theatre on August 22–23 will bring together councils, business chambers, universities, Government bodies, co-working space and entrepreneurs.
It has been welcomed by local business operators, who say it would help address business growth amid a number of businesses closing down this year – including PastaCup, Carv’n It Up, Pizzazz, CC Best, Risky Business, and Jump'n'Putt.
Siobhain Howard, project officer of CSU Wagga’s innovation program AgriTech Incubator, said it was an opportunity to work with others in the region.
“It will be great to bring everyone into the same room to discuss innovation in a regional context,” Ms Howard said.
“CSU is committed to continuing to build innovation and the start-up ecosystem in the regions.”
Similarly, Josh Walsh, who runs White Tops Venues in Wagga, said it was important to bring business ideas from outside the Riverina into the region.
“It’s all about gaining the best ideas to implement here, as well as vice versa,” Mr Walsh said.
“I’m looking forward to working with those from metro and other regional centres – to see what we can do as a group to improve.
I’m looking forward to working with those from metro and other regional centres – to see what we can do as a group to improve.Josh Walsh, operator of White Tops Venues
“As an event organiser, it’d be a chance to learn from others who have been successful.”
Wagga Business Chamber’s president Danielle Pascoe said “it’s a wonderful initiative for the business community”.
Government bodies and industry agencies to present
The conference will have expert panels and key notes from regional entrepreneurs like Jane Cay of birdsnest, Christopher Saunders of Renew Newcastle and Jack Archer of The Regional Australia Institute.
Wagga City Council will also have a presentation about innovation barriers, solutions and priorities in smart regional cities.
The council’s manager of city strategy Tristan Kell said the event would bring people from all around the nation to Wagga, “bringing ideas and drawing attention to the region”.
“Conferences have positive impacts on local economies,” Mr Kell said.
“The nature of this conference should excite local businesses in the region as it encourages new ways of thinking and innovation in regional Australia.”
He said he looked forward to learning how the community can improve collaboration to boost the local economy and nurture talent within the region.
The nature of this conference should excite local businesses in the region as it encourages new ways of thinking and innovation in regional Australia.Tristan Kell, Wagga City Council's manager of city strategy
Similarly, Rachel Whiting, CEO of Regional Development Australia Riverina, will be speaking about a workforce development for the region, saying it needed more skilled workers.
Ms Whiting said the Riverina’s workforce development plan works in four areas.
- Education and help for existing business.
- Helping young people in the Riverina realise the career opportunities available to them in the region through the Grow Our Own program.
- Attracting people with the skills and experiences needed in our region via programs like Country Change, Evocities and through our exciting new Jobs Riverina platform.
- Filling the occupation gaps that cannot be filled easily in our region through Skilled Migration and targeted Refugee Resettlement programs.
She hopes the conference would showcase the Riverina to the world.
“As well as exposing businesses within the Riverina to new opportunities and ways of solving their problems,” Ms Whiting said.
“The networking opportunities for business and professionals are so valuable at a conference like 8point8.
“Meeting people and discussing the presentations is a fantastic way to connect with others who have the same issues as you do, or that may have solutions for you.
“Opportunities to collaborate are endless.”
Learning and growth are key: organiser
8point8 founder Di Somerville said the event was about “bringing all the decision makers to the table to learn and share the best ways to grow our regions and embrace entrepreneurship and innovation.
“Working with like-minded people and organisations...is an important part of the conversation as they see the importance of a thriving regional work future,” Ms Somerville said.
Wagga and Riverina business operators who are attending the conference have been contacted for comments.
- More about the conference: Regional Innovation and Small Business Conference.