It is wonderful to welcome business executive Peter Francis, pictured, back to the Lake Macquarie fold, following his appointment last week as the new chief executive of Dantia, the city’s economic development company.
Peter has had a diverse and successful business career, including his most recent role in trade and business development at the Port of Newcastle, but Lake Macquarie people will probably recognise him best as the former manager of Charlestown Square.
Peter oversaw the $470m redevelopment of the shopping centre, which was completed in 2010, and his insight into the City and its economic and business capability will be a great asset in his new role.
Dantia was launched by Council in 2014 as an independent company with a mission to work with business, government, the community and partners to advance the sustainable economic prosperity of Lake Macquarie City.
Already, it is having an impact: in its first full year of operation, Dantia estimates that it brought $24 million into the local economy, creating more than 100 new employment opportunities, through new investments or commitments.
It has helped attract major conferences and events, including the Offshore Superboat Championship and the recent NSW Surf Life Saving titles, and was involved in bringing the new Westpac Rescue Helicopter base to Belmont.
Dantia’s collaborative working space – the DaSH hub at Charlestown – has hosted more than 50 startups and business entrepreneurs and continues to grow in popularity, recently becoming part of a regional network of innovation hubs.
I attended the Hunter Research Foundation Centre economic breakfast last week, at which the Lead Economist, Dr Anthea Bill, reported promising outcomes from the December quarter.
She said business confidence in the region was strong and employment growing, with the regional unemployment rate (4.6 per cent) falling below the statewide figure (5.1 per cent) for the first time in three years.
Additionally, she reported strong house price growth in Lake Macquarie in 2016, of 8.3 per cent, with the buoyancy in the market owing much to the City’s affordability.
This is an exciting time for Lake Macquarie as we look to strengthen and diversify our economic profile and continue to enhance the City’s reputation as a great place to live and do business.