Creative cluster: Re-defining Broome's traded economy

Written on the 26 May 2017 by Jael Napper

Creative cluster: Re-defining Broome's traded economy The economic profile of Broome as authored by AEC Group in November 2012 acknowledged Broome's potential in creative industries. "Given the significant attraction of the natural environment and lifestyle destination, given sufficient infrastructure, there is an opportunity to build a creative cluster," the report states.  This was a driving force behind the rationale of the Chamber turning its head to the arts industry as one which the community was already good at, but with great potential for collaboration and growth.  Where there is clearly talent in the town, the commercial aspects of trading this talent is falling short, at the same time retail spaces are being left empty for years on end.  This gave birth to the Broome Makers Gallery, the Chamber's retail incubator in Johnny Chi Lane.

Opening this retail incubator in Chinatown has been an interesting experience.  Widely celebrated by the few who have encountered it, the project has been met with a surprising element of opposition from some surrounding retailers, due mainly to the prospect of competition in a tough economic climate.  "Why would the Chamber be supporting new business when it should be prioritising those that already exist?"

The question we should be asking is, "Why is the Chamber not doing more to promote economic growth which supports my business?"

I've recently returned from a two-day Cluster Training workshop with the Department of Regional Development, facilitated by one of the world's most influential cluster practitioners in the world, Ifor Ffowcs-Williams.  Ifor explained the clear message of successful global regional economies being the clustering and incubating of specialised businesses which can own its space in that territory - or 'smart specialisation'. Examples of these are Silicon Valley (IT and software development), Hollywood (film and television production), Grasse in France (perfume capital of the world), Bergen in Norway (50% global market subsea technology) right down to small scale Australian examples of Margaret River (wine), Scone (thoroughbred horses) and Young (Cherries).  Each of the economies of these destinations are driven by their cluster of businesses within a core traded economy.

Stripping back the opportunities for Broome, it's essential to identify our traded economy which is the driving force behind all businesses who service (housing construction, restaurants, etc) and take advantage of the population that supports the centre pivot of that traded economy.

Broome's traded economy was long driven in recent history by pearling, instrumental to its population growth in the late 19th in to the 20th centuries.  In came McAlpine in the early 80's breathing new life to Broome with tourism being its next traded economy.

Now in the 21st century Broome has seen countless consultants who are tasked with identifying the next wave of traded economy that can drive a clear path toward future sustainability.  The key question to ask being, "WHAT ARE WE ALREADY GOOD AT DOING WITHIN OUR CORE BROOME COMMUNITY?"

Ifor explained the folly of starting in the wider marketplace, then working back to how a region could facilitate that opportunity.  A big example of this being the foil of the gas processing hub in Broome,  while there were certainly economic and geographic rationales for this opportunity it was not within the core community belief to facilitate this industry on such a scale.

Where the clear trend of strong economies is smart specialisation (or clustering) of industry which involves co-opetition (competing businesses coming together to achieve common objectives), the clear trend of weak economies is low trust communities.  Low trust communities tend to operate to each individual's sole advantage and not as a collective, large scale examples of these being Africa or the Ukrane.

Broome must start with the talents and identity of its community as it currently exists, which then builds capacity to create market demand.  The most crucial ingredient to identifying and truly building on Broome's traded economy being trust.  Not to be mistaken by complete disclosure of all parties but each stakeholder opening the door to their world just wide enough to identify common objectives and collaborate.

It's time to celebrate what we're all good at, build trust, move the isolation of Broome's businesses and help our community to work through this process. If Broome has potential to build on its creative cluster as a traded economy, global trends suggest this could trigger prosperity, entrepreneurship and structural change.

Author: Jael Napper

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