Strategy wins praise

A STRATEGY to expand Shellharbour City's economy and increase employment has been praised by the Albion Park Chamber of Commerce.

The Economic Development Strategy will cover the next four years, encouraging more employment opportunities, technology uptake and an increase in tourism.

The unemployment rate stands at 7.2 per cent, up from 5.4 per cent in NSW.

Of the 29,000 people living in Shellharbour who work, half work in Wollongong and a third work in Shellharbour, with the rest commuting to Kiama and Sydney.

Albion Park Chamber of Commerce secretary Graeme Morrison said the statistic was a concern.

"Albion Park in particular is regarded as a dormitory suburb, in other words, most of the workforce don't work in the area," he said.

"With that, it means escape spending, it means congestion of traffic - anything that can be used to alleviate that and get more of the workforce in the local area or its surrounds is going to benefit, one, the community because the money stays here and the employment stays here, two, demands on infrastructure aren't as great."

With the council hoping to deliver more services digitally and take advantage of the University of Wollongong's iAccelerate program, telehealth opportunities and expand Wi-Fi into blackspot areas, Mr Morrison said access to technology was crucial.

"One of the problems we have with businesses is a lot of them do not access the available resources out there now to promote their businesses," he said.

Currently, 55 per cent of businesses are sole traders, with no businesses employing 100 or more.

"In Albion Park, we have about 600 home businesses - they've got to be connected to the outside world somehow," Mr Morrison said.

Albion Park had shocking internet connectivity.

"I think any strategy that focuses on the needs of the community is good planning, it has to be done," he said.

"For too long now, we've seen policy on the run, but for the council to knuckle down and develop a strategy for the future is worthwhile."

The council will continue to support the Economic Gardening program and the Shellharbour Small Business Network, and consider small business mentoring, start-up programs and partnerships.

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