Manufacturing the Hunter’s future

The Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) has been conducting new research in 2014 to identify ways to help regional manufacturers to become more competitive.
Under the Regional Competitiveness research theme, the HRF’s economics team has been out talking to local manufacturers to uncover the barriers to them expanding their markets outside the region.
Project Manager Jenny Williams said the Regional Competitiveness – Manufacturing research program began in March this year by consulting with regional stakeholders representing policy-makers, industry groups and manufacturing leaders, who form our Manufacturing Advisory Group.
“Manufacturing is a significant sector in the Hunter, accounting for almost 10 per cent of our labour force and employing 27,000 people,” Jenny said. “Hunter manufacturing is in decline, however, with more than 8,000 jobs lost from the sector since early 2011. In consultation with our Advisory Group, we defined the research question, how can we develop and maintain a globally competitive manufacturing sector in the Hunter?”
The HRF’s program involves three stages, with Stage 1, completed in June, reviewing global factors affecting manufacturing, national and international trends that apply to the Hunter, and completing a number of interviews with Hunter-based firms that had effectively dealt with some of the challenges. Stage 2, which began in July, involved in-depth interviews with 45 regional manufacturers, mostly small to medium enterprises, exploring a range of issues identified as significant in Stage 1.
“We are finalising our analysis from the interviews and are working with our Manufacturing Advisory Group to develop real solutions to address areas where programs or policies could assist manufacturers to be more efficient, more innovative, and to identify and access new markets,” Jenny said.
The results of Stage 2 of the HRF’s Regional Competitiveness – Manufacturing research will be released at the final event in the HRF’s Hunter Economic Breakfast series for 2014, to be held at Wests New Lambton on Friday, 28 November.
The breakfast, as well as releasing the HRF’s highly-anticipated Hunter Economic Indicators, will feature a panel discussion on ‘Manufacturing our future in the Hunter’.
Stage 3 of this important research, the Hunter Manufacturing Industry Monitoring Project, builds on the work done so far and aims to develop and establish a management information system to monitor the sustainability of the Hunter’s manufacturing industry over time. HRF, which has committed more than $40,000 to the program, will be seeking support to implement this project.