WHEN looking at potential employment sources to meet the expected population growth, one academic has urged the region not to write off manufacturing.
Chris Gibson is director of the Global Challenges Program and Professor of Human Geography at the University of Wollongong.
He cited census statistics, which indicated that between 2006 and 2011, total employment in manufacturing decreased by 15 per cent across the whole Illawarra region, but largely driven by decline in the Wollongong LGA.
Both Shellharbour and Shoalhaven LGAs actually recorded a slight overall growth in manufacturing jobs - three per cent in Shellharbour and one per cent in Shoalhaven. Growth was most significant in food processing and a range of niche industries such as transport equipment manufacturing.
Professor Gibson said it could be difficult to predict which industries would take off within the Illawarra. A point of interest would be the impact of 3D printing on manufacturing.
Professor Gibson said he wouldn't be writing off manufacturing. "You're looking at a lot more specialist niches," he said.
"For example, at the airport, little manufacturers making specialist things for the needs of the aviation industry, making specific products for specific needs."
Professor Gibson also said aged care and provision of aged-care services had key flow-on effects, including making hearing aids and firms required to adapt homes.
He said it was important that the area not be filled with "dormitory suburbs", where people lived, but didn't work or access services. "It's really important that there is a more integrated and strategic approach to planning for population growth."