While the announced closure of two local meatworks has come as a body-blow to Ipswich, the region is confident existing and emerging industries will drive future investment and growth. Within the last week, commitments from Costco and Rheinmetall – if it can win its Federal Government bid to build armoured vehicles for the Australian Army – helped paint a brighter future.
Jobs lost by meatworks closures
potential jobs announced this week - Costco and Rheinmetall
how many thousand dwellings in 15 years at Ripley, Springfield and Redbank Plains
how many million dollars being spent on hospital projects
All levels of government reacted quickly this week to help workers at the Churchill Abattoir and Steggles Baiada Wulkuraka facilities, which will close within the next six months.
Council’s Economic Development Manager Paul Hodgson acknowledged the job losses as devastating, but said no stone would be left unturned in trying to find alternative jobs for the workers and investment for the companies.
Mr Hodgson said Ipswich was enjoying increasing employment across several industries and, despite the closure of the meatworks, this included food manufacturing.
He pointed to five sectors which could sustain the upward turn in the Ipswich economy:
- Education and Training
- Food Manufacturing
- Building and Construction
Mr Hodgson said hospital and allied health services were booming.
The Health City hub at Springfield Central had seen the opening of the 80-bed, $85 million first stage of the Mater Private Hospital, while stage one of the Aveo Group’s 2,500 senior living units and other health and integrated facilities within the hub had just opened.
St Andrew’s Ipswich Private Hospital had embarked on the largest redevelopment project in its 108-year history. The $64 million investment would see a new intensive care unit supporting the first private Emergency Centre, increasing the capacity of the hospital from 97 to 178 beds.
Employment here would include the initial construction, then specialist roles such as doctors and nurses, allied health positions, and in addition administrative staff, cleaners, cooks and carers.
Mr Hodgson said the education and training sector had already seen positive results.
The University of Southern Queensland, with campuses at Ipswich and Springfield, had just been voted top university in the country for graduate starting salaries and second in terms of the number of graduates getting fulltime employment.
One new state school had been built at Bellbird Park, while several others were on the drawing board as the population exploded at Springfield, Ripley and Redbank Plains.
Council had also been working with State Government on regional study clusters in order to provide diverse, comprehensive and unique offerings to international students – another expanding branch of the education and training sector.
Mr Hodgson said there was no way to suddenly replace the 750-900 direct and indirect jobs lost by the meatworks’ closures, but Council would look to the same food manufacturing area to assist.
Sunny Queens Eggs was sunny side up in this sector after committing to a new $40 million head office and manufacturing facility in Ipswich, which was designed to give the company a foothold in the pre-prepared meals sector.
Sunny Queen Australia had created 115 jobs for Ipswich, with the Carole Park facility enabling the business to grow the workforce again with a further 39 jobs.
Council and State Government had joined forces last year to support the relocation of 130 Swickers workers to Ipswich after the company’s Kingaroy pork abattoir was badly damaged by fire. While it was a temporary measure, it had shown Council could work quickly to provide local work.
City Country Foodservice, a family run business, based at Wulkuraka, had been a major food supplier throughout the region, including Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Lockyer Valley, Southern Darling Downs and Granite Belt, since 1981.
“These businesses are doing exceptionally well, essentially in the domestic market. We are looking at exporting as well and delivering such great food products to the world,” Mr Hodgson said.
Council had been working closely with Food Innovation Australia, an industry-led, not-for-profit organisation focused on growing the share of Australian food in the global marketplace.
“There is a very strong value proposition for our region. We have so many great food producing, processing and distribution operations within and on our borders. We want to take them to the world,” he said.
“Exporting is where the future lies.”
Building and construction was probably the most obvious boom industry in the region, with cranes dotting the skyline, from Springfield to the CBD, and non-stop new housing activity in the new suburbs.
“There is a lot of residential development … Ripley Valley, Redbank Plains, Springfield, redevelopment at Yamanto. Defence Housing Australia plans to build 320 new homes near the Amberley RAAF base.
“Commercial space is picking up. We are about to see the biggest transformation in inner-city Ipswich in 30 years with the $150 million City Heart development. “
Mr Hodgson said hundreds of jobs would be created with various industrial park developments across the region, with the flow-on as businesses were then established.
Tourism had been a slow-burner but recent signs pointed to this emerging sector.
“We had two million visitors in the past year. That is exceptionally good for a region of 200,000 people,” he said.
The annual Winternationals and the CMC Rocks country and roots festival are huge money-spinners for Ipswich, with tourism-related areas, such as the region’s restaurants, cafes, accommodation venues and transport options benefitting.
“It is all about making Ipswich a premier destination and people wanting to visit the region.”
Mr Hodgson said other emerging industries – from renewable energy to defence – had also stepped up to the plate in terms of job creation.
“It is not all doom and gloom. We are extremely well positioned. This is still the fastest growing city in the state. But there is a lot of hard work to be done.
“With all this population growth, we need jobs growth. We also want more and better quality jobs for the region.”