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Recently (Feb. 28, 2014) Parramatta was named by the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) a peak body of the development industry, as New South Wales best suburb. This is an important recognition for Parramatta as it sheds its heavy industry past and moves into the new era of med-tech/finance as its base industries trying to become a global competitive community. Parramatta is no longer just a regional adjunct to the Sydney CBD.  For Parramatta and all of Sydney’s Western Suburbs; this award and the measures it uses are a clear signal that the Sydney’s regional economic thrust must shift from making things to thinking things. That is, more people in Sydney’s West will work with their heads and fewer people will be employed anywhere in Sydney’s suburbs in jobs working with their hands.  Good people located in good places will create the competitive edge for Sydney’s regional economy. Places like Newcastle and Parramatta get it. As much as we bemoan the demise of the auto industry and other manufactures nationally, it’s clear that looking to the past will not create the future.

 

Parramatta’s remarkable turnaround is no accident. Parramatta is taking a path like Pittsburgh the great steel city in the US that moved from producing rolled steel to becoming the world leading software and robot systems producer that today guides  global mass production.  Similarly, Parramatta is assembling a new education-medical complex in Westmead combined with the University of Western Sydney and the University of New England to drive a creative Ed-Med incubator that will spin out new bio-medical and related micro-industries in Rydalmere and on the old oil refinery sites near Rose Hill race course. If this sounds a bit like San Jose, California the home ground for Silicon Valley; this is no accident. Lord Mayor Chided and his fellow Councillors have travelled the world from China to Europe and UK along with study tours to the US to see and learn how to transform their community so it can compete with the world’s best.

 The biggest lessons for Parramatta leadership saw and are acting on from their living and learning experiences is that revitalising the city is not merely attracting government offices. Parramatta’s focus must be on making the city a great place to live. Parramatta is creating a civic heart based on arts and entertainment with two universities (UNE and UWS) embedded in its civic centre precinct.   Parramatta’s leaders are also fashioning a lively civic community supported with mixed use housing undergirded by the one of the world’s best digital Wi-Fi systems to support any form of digital hardware and software. Along the Parramatta riverfront the city is building living environments for the 21st and 22nd century providing  new  and existing residents with  light rail to surrounding districts like Rhodes, Castle Hill and Ryde-Macquarie making them  close to all the amenities and transport they need to generate the global services required to be globally competitive today and tomorrow. What Parramatta is doing is a lesson for all New South Wales on how we must build tomorrow’s urban industrial future by attracting and retaining quality human resources who will create and attract new jobs that will sustain the region’s and the nation’s economy.

Professor Edward J. Blakely is honorary professor at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. Professor Blakely leads the US Studies Centre future Cities collaborative that annually selects six cities to undergo and intensive experience in urban revitalisation recognised as a world authority on urban development. He has received numerous award for his work including from UN Habitat and the American and Australian Planning Association.