PREDICTION: What Warwick will look like in the future
IN THE decades to come, Warwick will be a freight and food processing hub with residents commuting to Toowoomba or Brisbane for work.
This is the vision outlined by economist Rob Hall in a recent study of the region's future, commissioned by the Southern Downs Regional Council.
Mr Hall will present his findings at the Mayoral Leadership Breakfast next week and said the Southern Downs must embrace the knowledge economy to thrive.
"Knowledge is the new iron ore,” Mr Hall said.
Businesses must work to get new knowledge into the key industries of agriculture, food processing and service delivery and the Southern Downs Regional Council - along with state authorities - must ensure there is fertile ground for new businesses.
"There is quite a bit of growth in the transport side of things. There might be opportunities that could be leveraged over the industrial development going on around Toowoomba,” he said
The Southern Downs has plenty of affordable land and it's close to food production. Mr Hall said these traits were good for light industry growth.
"The industrial guys are looking for big amounts of land at an affordable price with B-double access,” he said.
"But you have to get the fundamentals right.”
This means zoning the right land and ensuring there are skilled workers to populate the factories of the future. Mr Hall said skills in automation and robotics would be a premium.
If all of this comes together, Mr Hall said there was great promise ahead for local jobs and growth but had added one final change. He sees Warwick becoming a commuter suburb for Toowoomba.
"In the past the region has leveraged mostly off itself, employment containment has been about 88 per cent but I think with Toowoomba elevating its role, it will allow the Southern Downs to grow with it,” he said.
Mayor Tracy Dobie said the council was already working with these ideas in mind. It is pushing for Cunningham Highway upgrades to reduce the travel time between Warwick and Brisbane to 90 minutes.
The council is reviewing its planning scheme and looking at the best place to build new industry and there are already large groups travelling for work.
"Already there are people who work in Toowoomba and live in Warwick,” Cr Dobie said.
"As it becomes more urban and more industrialised people will want to live in smaller communities and they'll look at Allora, Clifton, Maryvale and Warwick.”