Local firms top in State

By DAWN COHEN

BUSINESSES are expected to flock to the Northern Rivers and employment to grow with new figures showing the region is one of the strongest economic performers in Australia.

But it may not be enough to beat a $14 million Queensland campaign to lure companies north of the border.

Results of a survey of 440 businesses from Tweed Heads to Coffs Harbour by local accounting firm, WHK Rutherfords, show sales are growing better in the Northern Rivers than in Sydney or Melbourne, and most other regional areas.

The survey says that local business people are more optimistic than their city counterparts and are expecting to n Continued expand the number of people they employ. But south Queensland is doing just as well.

WHK Rutherfords business consultant Graham Correy announced the 2005 NSW North Coast and Northern Rivers Business Survey findings yesterday at the Ballina Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, the Lismore Workers' Club and the Grafton Community Centre.

Prescott Securities chief executive Darryl Gobbett, of Adelaide, said lower levels of debt, higher availability of workers and continuing strength in the housing market were the main factors behind the region's strength.

Mr Correy said: "The Northern Rivers is doing better than the metropolitan areas because we have smaller overdrafts and mortgages than in the city.

"We also have higher unemployment, which means we can find staff.

"The housing market has also dropped much more severely in Sydney than on the coast."

Mr Correy predicted strong growth and increased employment on the Northern Rivers.

However, he cannot guarantee a win in the economic State of Origin, something that has heightened this week with the announcement of a Queensland advertising campaign aimed at poaching business from NSW.

"Growth in regional Queensland and Brisbane is about the same as the Northern Rivers," he said.

"But it is cheaper to do business in Queensland. Vendor tax places NSW at a disadvantage."



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