EXPERTS of innovation say Wagga must resist competing with its regional counterparts and look further afield instead to accelerate its population boom.
EQI Consulting chief executive Peter Auhl said the city's main focus should not be convincing big corporations to relocate from metropolitan areas, but rather attracting head offices that are internationally-based to regional Australia.
This was the topic of discussion at a virtual round-table on Tuesday morning, organised by Committee 4 Wagga, which focused on digital connectivity, innovation and smart city opportunities for Wagga as it grows to a population of 100,000.
Mr Auhl said the pandemic has opened "a window of opportunity" for regional areas like Wagga to become more resilient into the future.
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However, he said it was an opportunity that could easily be taken away if not acted upon quickly enough.
"It is so critical to become laser-focused on what regional areas are going to get good at," he said.
"It is going to send a very palpable message internationally about if (a company is) going to be the best at movie production, they are going to go (to this regional city), if they are going to be the best at bio-science they will want to go here.
"And then have an education pipeline in those regions so that people who are coming out of their education can go straight into a job."
Leading Edge Data Centres chief executive and founder Chris Thorpe said there is "a golden opportunity" to drive population movement to regional locations in the next 12 to 24 months - but it is one that is fleeting.
Mr Thorpe said Wagga needed to forget about competing with the likes of Albury, Tamworth and Dubbo because it is on the international stage.
"I have been speaking to virtually every council across NSW and most have seen huge spikes in inquiries. People from the cities are getting sick of it and want to move," he said.
"We collectively have an opportunity to make a serious impact in a very short space of time."
GHD Digital's Global Director for D-Lab Jacyl Shaw said it has taken a pandemic to prove that employees could work from regional areas and major infrastructure projects could still progress as per usual.
Moving forward, Ms Shaw said business leaders need to be more intentional about delivering this option.
"So long as we have digital connectivity, we can be role modelling and showing people can work and live from the regions," she said.
Mr Auhl agreed, stating that corporations need to shift its focus from pulling populations out of regional centres to work in metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne and instead, bring the offices to the people.