Bowen Collinsville Enterprise chairman Paul Mclaughlin says flexibility will be key to Bowen’s post-COVID recovery. Photo: Laura Thomas
Bowen Collinsville Enterprise chairman Paul Mclaughlin says flexibility will be key to Bowen’s post-COVID recovery. Photo: Laura Thomas

Chairman shares key to Bowen’s post-COVID recovery

BOWEN is well positioned to grasp opportunities during coronavirus recovery with a raft of developments and a change in attitude pegged to draw more people to the area, according to the Bowen Collinsville Enterprise chairman.

Paul McLaughlin said Bowen was in a unique economic position because of the diversity of the region's industry.

"We're very fortunate that we just don't rely on tourism," he said.

"That gives us a good base I guess so if one industry isn't doing as well, it doesn't affect the town as much as something like Airlie Beach, which is really reliant on tourism.

"Like all communities we just have to accept the fact that we're not going to have international travel for a number of years … but I think we have to (stop looking) at that as a negative.

"The reality is that we may have nine million people that aren't coming into the country, but we've probably got nine million people that aren't going out of the country.

"What we've got to do is capture that domestic market that can't go out of the country and get them to spend in the region."

 

Urannah Creek, the site of the proposed Urannah Dam, which Mr McLaughlin said would be key in strengthening the region’s economy.
Urannah Creek, the site of the proposed Urannah Dam, which Mr McLaughlin said would be key in strengthening the region’s economy.

 

Mr McLaughlin said although the recent border closure to NSW and Victoria would pose a challenge for travel in the short term, there were several key projects in the works that could boost infrastructure and jobs in the region.

These included the Urannah Water Scheme, bringing a Catalina to Bowen and exploring options for development in the Bowen Marina.

Combined with the Carmichael Mine and other developments across the Whitsundays, Mr McLaughlin argued the region would draw more residents and tourists.

"I've always made the statement if you want small business to flourish you need big business to flourish because big business is what brings the people," he said.

Looking at what he called the "bigger picture", Mr McLaughlin also put forward a case for Bowen to capitalise on changes in the workforce as a result of COVID-19.

Bowen's Whitsunday Paradise Development could also provide a boost to Bowen, according to Mr McLaughlin.
Bowen's Whitsunday Paradise Development could also provide a boost to Bowen, according to Mr McLaughlin.

This could include drawing more permanent residents from southern states as well as improvements to the region's "liveability" with house and land packages like those offered at Whitsunday Paradise.

A change in work and movement away from office spaces could also provide opportunities for growth in Bowen with Mr McLaughlin saying there was "no reason" the head offices of major companies needed to be in big cities any more.

"I think it is a different world," he said.

"If you've got a billion dollars to spend, should you spend it on roads in Brisbane trying to allow people to save 10 minutes getting to the office or should you come and spend it in North Queensland trying to encourage people to get out of Brisbane?

"Hopefully governments will start to see the logic (and stop) building tunnels and bridges for roads in the cities and start investing that money into dams and infrastructure and projects that generate income instead of projects that cost money to maintain."

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However, he believed the key to Bowen's recovery and development would be flexibility.

"You have to change and adapt," he said.

"In these COVID times, if we all tried to focus on what might happen, we'd never manage anything.

"The businesses that can be flexible and are prepared to change and are prepared to work at it, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

"The other positive thing is that there are big projects on the horizon that are going to help our area.

"If out of all this we can convince levels of government that it's critical that these projects get up and it's critical that these projects go forward, hopefully they may be a bit more realistic with some of the red and green tape that we need to go through to get these projects moving faster."


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