COMMENT: If the looming jobs crisis in the central west has taught us anything it should be that planning for the future is the key to managing changes to the regional economy.
The jobs summit organised by the Central West Community Union Alliance is an opportunity for the politicians of all persuasions, unions and employers to sit down and look at the long-term changes facing our region as well as the short-term ones.
The manufacturing sector in the tablelands has in the summit an opportunity to do what the fruit-growing region of the Goulburn Valley in Victoria might be wishing it had done years ago.
News that the federal government will not be allocating $25 million to SPC Ardmona to help restructure the last major fruit canning factory in Australia means the future for that entire industry is now uncertain.
However, industry analysts say the signs have been there for years that the canned fruit industry was in decline. Changing consumer tastes have seen the volume of canned fruit in decline, while fresh produce is increasingly popular not only domestically but in the growing export markets of Asia.
Across the Tasman New Zealand horticulture began to focus on exporting for the fresh-food market a decade ago and is now much better placed than Australian growers.
In the tablelands there needs to be a focus at the summit on the short-term needs of manufacturing workers who will need to be re-employed but also on future opportunities.
The latter is where infrastructure projects such as a major new dam deserve a hearing along with what new manufacturing and agricultural opportunities exist.
Both the short-term stimulus to jobs and the long-term strategic planning are challenging problems. Neither will be tackled successfully in an atmosphere of acrimony or political point-scoring.
The guest list is an impressive one but it is the list of acceptances which will be telling. The summit is an invitation to be part of a regional solution which all parties should accept in good faith.