By Tom O’Meara
The man behind Launceston’s newest multi-million dollar hotel development says Tasmania’s industry strengths across tourism and retail will help create jobs.
And he emphasised that investors and entrepreneurs would create the jobs if government and local government would release potential prime tourism and retail sites currently unused.
Businessman Errol Stewart joined the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in calls for calm over the state’s employment numbers, as his $20 million Silos Hotel project on North Bank reached a major milestone.
Ironically the jobs issue was overtaken by the Chromy Group announcement of a job-creating $40m redevelopment of the TRC Hotel site on the corner of Launceston’s Margaret and Paterson Streets.
Josef Chromy and JAC Group managing director, Dean Cocker along with Mr Stewart were speakers at the TCCI’s packed leaders’ function at the Chromy-owned Penny Royal.
The JAC Group has redeveloped the popular Penny Royal tourism complex and is still negotiating additional tourism opportunities for an overall spend of about $30m.
The new , multi-storey hotel at the TRC site will be designed to link with the Penny Royal site and complement Mr Stewart’s Silos Hotel at North Bank.
Both projects are major job creators in the construction stage as well as the permanent and casual hospitality positions.
The jobs issue erupted in State Parliament at the end of August, when the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed 5,200 jobs have been lost in the past 10 months, with the participation rate also down to 59 per cent – sparking political criticism and point scoring on job management.
However, leading economist Saul Eslake questioned the validity of the figures.
“I’m not sure that we have really lost 5000 jobs over the last year any more than I really believe we made 6500 over the previous year. My point is you’ve got to take the two together,” Mr Eslake told The Examiner.
TCCI chief executive Michael Bailey said the data set was far from robust, calling for calm. The employment rate is 6.4 per cent and Mr Bailey said economic indicators were on the rise in the North.
So too is Mr Stewart’s hotel at the old grain silos opposite Seaport on the banks of the Tamar River.
The foundation has been laid for a 48 metre tower crane which will allow access to the entire site with its 60 metre boom, while 600 cubic metres of concrete, weighing about 1,500 tonne, plus an additional 55 tonne of steel reinforcing, has been laid for hotel’s northern tower footings.
The hotel will be seven storeys high with up to 108 rooms and is expected to be open on December 24, 2017.
Mr Stewart said it was one opportunity for job creation as will be the progression of the UTAS relocation to Inveresk and Launceston CBD.
“The manufacturing industry is very important but it’s also very hard to create major job increases as in the past,” Mr Stewart said.
“We know there will be increased roles in education and health and the opportunity of the UTAS development in Invermay not only attracts major construction jobs but also the higher income employment positions.
“Tourism is working but we need to create more tourism ventures to increase the attraction, particularly in the North. I feel confidence levels in the North are increasing so we need to encourage people to grasp the opportunities.
“Development which results in job creation should be led by investors and entrepreneurs should be encouraged to do so. It’s not the role of Government, or councils to lead the charge.”
Mr Bailey said the economic stimulus of the combined projects will lead to more positivity in the region, in turn improving the participation rate – that is the number of people that are actively looking for work, or taking part in training or education.
“There appears no doubt that the participation number is falling. It has been falling for some time and we all need to address it,”Mr Bailey said.
“I am increasingly of the belief that participation will be improved at community level.
“TASCOSS and the TCCI have been working together for some time thinking of ways that we can help to facilitate real and lasting change at a community level.
“Far from us being at loggerheads, which some seem to be suggesting, we are working quietly behind the scenes affecting real change.”
The TCCI has regularly reiterated the importance of the University of Tasmania’s northern expansion, which includes development at Inveresk and Launceston’s Willis St car park site, combined with major capital expenditure on the Burnie waterfront.
It’s gaining momentum with a visit from Assistant Cities Minister Angus Taylor, who confirmed the Federal Government’s $150 million election commitment would be delivered.
Mr Taylor said the government recognised the importance of “jobs, small business growth and liveability” though better integration with the University, the city and industry.
Progress on the UTAS master plan is expected before the end of the year.