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Title: Medium Term Forecasts for Economic and Social Conditions in Cotton Communities
Authors: Sorensen, Tony
Issue Date: 30-Jun-2010
Publisher: Cotton Catchment Communities CRC
Abstract: This is the third of our four reports for the Cotton Catchment Communities CRC project entitled: Innovative Regional Businesses and Options for Economic Growth in Cotton Communities. It has two components. The first documents and analyses the socio-economic profiles for six representative cotton communities derived from surveys of community leaders from local government, small business, and community service organisations. The communities surveyed were Warren, Wee Waa and Moree in New South Wales, and St George, Dalby and Emerald in Queensland. The reasons for their selection were stated in detail in our first report to the Cotton Catchment Communities CRC but, in summary, they differ considerably in their geographical location, population size, significance of cotton in their respective agricultural sectors and the range of alternative economic activities including mining and tourism.Our visits to these communities greatly enhanced the statistical analysis already undertaken for the first report because we were able to gauge:- local leadership dynamics- the extent of communities' strategic focus on the future- respondents' fears and hopes for the future and prospects for resilience- emerging options for future business development- evolving links with other communities and with state governments- the range of services provided and the extent of entrepreneurial innovation- their institutional thickness in the sense of range and contribution of community groups- their degree of social and economic tension or harmony, and demographic trends having a bearing on community sustainability.None of this information is available from such statistical sources as the five-yearly census, but is crucial to understanding the commercial environment in which businesses have to innovate to survive in the longer term. Moreover, we detect and report here subtle, but important, differences between our sample communities on many of these dimensions which, in our view, may well shape small business behaviour. This proposition is currently being tested through a survey of small business across the six locations.The second component of this report stems logically from the first in that it assesses the external forces shaping rural Australia in general, the cotton industry in particular, and the six separate communities under investigation. Medium term forecasting, in which we apply the well-known process of scenario construction, allows us to probe, and interrelate to some degree, the vast range of variables potentially influencing place prosperity and small business behaviours and futures. This knowledge, in turn, enable us to assess the extent to which businesses, individually and collectively, have (i) realistic visions about their future operating environment and (ii) regularly apply those visions in the strategic positioning of their enterprises. A priori reasoning suggests that innovative business will have developed reasoned analyses of their evolving socio-economic milieu. Our current small business survey will help us test this proposition also.Our scenario construction work reported here shows a generally up-beat assessment of rural Australia's medium term future, not least because of the China factor, whose rapid economic growth looms large in our analysis. However, we believe that India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and several other countries are equally part of this equation. Their combined populations of more than 2.5 billion increasingly affluent people are located right on our doorstep, and are a potentially colossal market for much of our agricultural produce. To that we might add Australia's own recent demographic forecasts, which foresee rapid population growth of a conservative 1.3% per annum compounded over many years. Our forecasting work also suggests that people's roles, attitudes and behaviours become increasingly important in shaping the structure and prosperity of communities the smaller the spatial scale under the microscope. Thus, our sample of places with their small populations will each find that their futures are determined by the interplay of local behaviours with the mega-trends shaping Australia in general. And businesses seeking to innovate and adapt will, in turn, be trapped to some extent by that interplay, while also recognising that truly innovative and far-sighted large-scale enterprise can rise above local conditions.As Shakespeare noted, 'brevity is the soul of wit'. To simplify and enhance this report's message, the two main parts summarise our findings, and we have placed considerable detail in extensive Appendices at the end. The latter are important in documenting the considerable thought processes shaping our analysis.
Appears in Collections:Cotton CRC Final Reports

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