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SEGRA Foundation

Local business is key: How regional micro-precincts create liveable communities

By Annemaree Jensen

Are you seeing less and less government funding opportunities in your regional community, or only seeing funding opportunities that require private partnerships and business cases?

Robert Prestipino of Vital Places understands your predicament. He’s developed a micro precinct framework that accommodates current funding realities by placing local small businesses at the core of liveable communities and economic growth.

Robert is a qualified Urban Designer, Registered Landscape Architect and an Australian Certified Economic Developer. He’s developed a number of micro precincts, including the Quilpie Wellspring precinct developed for the Shire of Quilpie. Quilpie is a Western Queensland centre that is located over a 10 hour drive from Brisbane. Like many rural communities it is facing declining population and reduced employment opportunities from traditional industries in the area. “The Quilpie Wellspring precinct concept essentially utilises a vacant area in the centre of Quilpie to support a range of co-located family businesses that benefit from shared water and energy costs. The project also builds in circular economy principles such as photovoltaic panels and water cycling, in order to further reduce business operating costs and to boost profitability, as well as to reduce environmental impacts,” Robert explains. High value low volume enterprises such as micro-breweries and aquaponics enterprises have even been explored as possible family businesses within the precinct. Robert also recognises the value of the internet in possibly providing additional income opportunities for regional businesses.

A further example of Robert’s local business approach to economic development is his current work with Toowoomba lifestyle business Lily’s Artisan, who use only local and seasonal produce to create value added products such as Italian pasta sauces, chutneys, jams, preserves and baked goods that are then sold to local and urban consumers. “The Lily’s Artisan approach of using only local produce supports a number of small local producers and micro producers such as hobby farmers. The business also taps into the growing demand for quality food with flavour and growing consumer disillusionment with the quality of large supermarket products,” Robert comments. Lily’s Artisan is growing, with the purchase of a business premise in Crows Nest (a small town 40 min north of Toowoomba), and is a great example of a micro localised food system in action.

Regional economic growth approaches such as the micro precinct approach outlined above will be hot on the agenda when the SEGRA Foundation gathers leading Australian politicians, thinkers and doers at this year’s National Regional and Economic Development Summit in Toowoomba from 25-27 July. Dedicated to advancing the economic, environmental and social outcomes for rural, remote and regional Australia, the Summit will focus on a collective approach to solving the biggest issues facing the regions.