Our brand has 'come of age'
Mr Miley told The Mercury in January that he had a vision for the State in which Tasmania’s reputation for quality cascaded through all sectors of the economy, including manufacturing.
The PFG group, based at Goodwood, is a major supplier of equipment to the aquaculture industry, including workboats. It has wide-ranging plastic-fabrication capability.
Mr Miley said Tasmania's brand extended from the food and beverage sector through to manufacturing and small business.
“People are sitting up and taking notice of Tasmania as a brand and when they are delving down to products and services they are seeing a group of very clever, innovative companies,” he said.
Tasmanians, Mr Miley said, had been forced to be clever and innovative because of the barrier of Bass Strait.
“Tasmanian companies have had to reinvent it, or make it themselves,” he said.
Prominent economist Saul Eslake said Tasmanians needed to look at creating high-value and high-quality goods and not try to recreate the economy of years gone by.
“Tasmania is no longer able to offer the cheap power and cheap labour that enabled the establishment of the aluminium, zinc, paper and newsprint industries from the 1930s to 1990s,” Mr Eslake said.
“The State will never get the scale to compete on undifferentiated goods in today’s world on the basis of price.
“Tasmanians seem to think that it is inherently more noble to produce something you can drop on your foot than to provide services and we need to ask ourselves why.”
Mr Eslake said the State’s manufacturing future lay in highly specialised goods, which could be sold at premium prices.
Marine construction was a sector capable of producing goods with a high intellectual content that commanded premium prices, he said.
Liferaft Systems Australia's Managing Director, Michael Grainger, reinforced Mr Miley's optimistic message.
“This is the most exciting time to be a niche, export manufacturer in Hobart that I can recall,” he said.
Liferaft Systems had exciting projects pending which could result in an increase of present employment of about 70 people.
“We are looking forward to an exciting future with Hobart-manufactured exports making up 90 per cent of our business,” he said.
But Mr Grainger said significant infrastructure investment was needed to accommodate growth — and support existing industry.
He said: “Our tourism sector is highly successful and delivering excellent results for the State at the moment, but we should not rely on tourism alone to carry Tasmania forward.
“The State needs investment to support our manufacturing industries and the long-term employment growth that will ultimately deliver long-term benefits.
“There are always niche manufacturing export opportunities which bring considerable wealth to Tasmania and Government needs to instill a high level of entrepreneurial confidence, which in turn will create solid investment.”
Mr Grainger said he could not recall such a high level of business confidence in the State as there was now.
This optimism was confirmed when the latest CommSec State-of-the-States report was released in late January.
Tasmania had moved from seventh to fourth place and a CommSec spokesperson said Tasmania was now the nation's big improver after having faced economic challenges over recent years.
The report placed only NSW, Victoria and the A.C.T. ahead of the State of Islands, based on eight economic indicators.
Tasmania's annual growth in home lending was the best in the nation, at 8.9 per cent, while retail spending remained strong after a remarkable, sustained run.
The Mercury editorialised that the report "could well be the most significant good news story for our State in quite some time."
"Tasmania is now ranked third on [unemployment] and is the top-ranked State on another: the measure of relative population growth — which, at 0.64 per cent, is the strongest in 6½ years," the newspaper said.
"The sense of optimism in the Tasmania of 2018 is palpable, particularly in the capital, where the housing price boom has seen home owners 10 and 20 and 30 per cent richer year on year.
"Tourism is also going well, and the flow-on effects as companies invest in Tasmania, on the back of us being so popular with visitors, means there are cranes on the skyline and visible changes happening around the place."
Image courtesy of the PFG Group
8 February 2018, Edition 191