WITH Lismore's economy now worth $2.4 billion annually, and growing at twice the NSW average, the owner of the city's newest motel couldn't be happier.
The Gateway Hotel's John Gardner has been building the $12 million project on Ballina Road that will open for business this weekend and says it was Lismore's reputation as the region's business and service centre that attracted him.
"We did a quite a bit of work on this when we acquired the site eight years ago - we had confidence then and our confidence has never waned," he said.
"It's just that we got involved in other things and hadn't got around to building the motel.
"This is an $8m project in its first stage (35 rooms) and we've got development approval for a further 35 rooms plus we own another 3000 sq m if we need it. We hope to start stage two early in the next financial year but we wouldn't be at all surprised to see a 100-room motel here in a few years."
The encouraging figures form part of Lismore City Council's Economic Snapshot which has been compiled to assist businesses and investors with future planning. The council's business facilitator, Mark Batten, said the report reflected the $87.3m of investment and infrastructure activity currently under way.
"This means benefits will be flowing through to the economy for years to come," he said.
"There's work to do yet but it is an amazing report showing that Lismore is a strong performing regional city well ahead of the game."
Projects under way include the Asia Pacific Football Institute ($5m); retail expansion by major supermarket chains ($14.2m); new accommodation and conference facilities ($12m); housing projects ($7m); and major expansion in the manufacturing industry ($30m).
"Critical infrastructure projects such as the ($13m) Southern Trunk Main are setting up the city to be able to absorb sustainable growth for the next quarter of a century," he added.
While population growth was fairly steady, rising 0.7% last year, the average income in Lismore grew slightly to almost equal the regional average of $35,822, but was still well below the NSW average of $48,793, though a dramatic rise of 9.6% in employment saw an extra 1956 people find work last year.
Lismore's major developments and investment in 2011/2012:
- Manufacturing industry expansion project $30 million;
- Retail expansion projects $14.2 million;
- Accommodation and conference facility $12 million;
- Critical infrastructure works $10 million;
- Housing projects $7 million;
- Heritage restoration and City Centre works $6 million;
- International standard sporting excellence centre $5 million;
- Business incubator project $1.1 million;
- Industry training and education program $2 million.
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