Toowoomba taking off
In a recent case study, we discovered Toowoomba is on the up and up. As a regional centre, Toowoomba has invested in infrastructure and fostered an entrepreneurial business culture. Now, a growing number of Brisbane’s professionals are heading west.
This year, we had the opportunity to develop a new economic profile for the Toowoomba Region in Queensland.
In addition to updating key sections within the profile using the latest ABS and National Economics (NIEIR) data, we decided that to capture the true story of growth and development, we needed to talk to some locals.
The end result was two case studies; one highlighting a major enabling infrastructure project that showcases the entrepreneurial spirit of local businesses, and another revealing how Toowoomba is increasingly becoming a destination of choice for residents of metropolitan Brisbane who are chasing a regional life without sacrificing urban amenities.
When is an airport more than an airport?
The first case study focuses on Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport – the first privately-owned public airport to be built in Australia in more than 50 years. The airport is the brainchild of the Wagners, a Toowoomba family who grew an initial investment in a small concrete batching plant into a successful multinational construction business.
Using their construction capabilities and raw materials from their own quarry nearby, the Wagners constructed a functional airport in an amazing 19 months and 11 days. It is also the only regional airport in Australia truly focused on growing a strong freight airline base, rather than simply a passenger service facility.
Wellcamp itself will generate numerous jobs and output from its ongoing operation, but it is the flow on or ‘catalytic’ effects that will have the greatest impact. These include improving global access, boosting productivity, multiplying benefits of other infrastructure, growing the visitor economy, and attracting new businesses and working professionals.
Brisbane professionals moving west
The second case study illustrated how an increasing number of professionals are taking the leap to regional living and calling Toowoomba home, as congestion and costs of living in Brisbane start to mount up. In fact, between 2006 and 2011, 36% of working residents who moved to Toowoomba from Brisbane were professionals.
Toowoomba offers a great lifestyle for new residents, with the region being ranked the fourth most family friendly city in Australia. The economy is also incredibly strong, and yet, it is still a very affordable place to live, with median house prices well below the state average. Toowoomba continues to develop it’s offering of metro-level facilities too. For example, the $500 million Grand Central redevelopment, which will provide residents with 160 new specialty retailers, including global high street brands like H&M.
Working professionals often cite reduced regional income levels and potential limitations to their career pathway as factors that may prevent them moving to a regional city. However, we discovered this wasn’t the typical experience in Toowoomba.
Our modelling showed that despite marginally lower average income levels, a family of two working professionals and two children is actually financially better off than they would be in Brisbane, once lower housing and commute costs are factored in. Concerns about career limitations are unfounded too: Toowoomba offers a number of executive positions in large companies and public sector institutions. The city is home to the headquarters of the Heritage Bank and the offices of many multinationals, especially in the oil and gas industries.
Take a closer look
For a more detailed understanding of two stories showcasing Toowoomba’s growth, read our case studies.
If you would like more information on the Toowoomba economy, visit their economy.id page, or explore one of the Toowoomba Region Council’s economic and industry profiles.
If you feel a case study approach would help your community or business stakeholders understand your economy better, contact .id’s team of urban economists.
.id is a team of demographers, urban economists, spatial planners and data experts who use a unique combination of online tools and consulting to help governments and organisations understand their local economies. Access our free economic resources to help profile your local economy.