Penrith: Heart of the New West
With a vibrant local economy that has been growing and diversifying over the last 10 years, Penrith is now on the cusp of significant developments that will transform the economy. From the STEM and research-focussed Sydney Science Park to the developments around the Western Sydney Airport, Penrith City Council is wasting no time seeking out partnerships and leveraging Greater Sydney’s major infrastructure projects.
The Sydney Science Park, Western Sydney Airport, the aerotropolis and the North South rail link are all key projects that will impact on economies both at the local and broader regional levels.
This article discusses some of the projects and opportunities for investors.
Sydney Science Park – jobs of the future
Situated in the Western Sydney Priority Growth Area, Sydney’s Science Park, is a $5 billion project in the Sydney suburb of Luddenham, about 8 kilometres from Penrith. The first stage of the project includes commercial, residential and educational facilities plus open public spaces.
With the first of many builds scheduled to open in 2021-2022, including a dedicated STEM school, the 258 hectare site is expected to become an international research hub with a focus on high tech industries including food, energy and health (see Celestino).
Anchor tenants include the CSIRO and Birling National Avian Lab, a division of Baiada Poultry Pty Limited, and provider of technical veterinary diagnostic services.
CSIRO is committed to building an Urban Living Lab, where research teams will study the city’s resilience and urban development concepts. The Urban Living Lab will be embedded in the community and is likely to become one of the largest in Australia. It will focus on developing innovative solutions to address the impact of population pressures, urban living, changing demographics and climate change.
Committed to building a technology-driven sustainable city, the project’s design incorporates fully integrated energy and waste management systems. Incorporating solar, battery and geothermal technologies, supported by “smart micro-grid” technology, the Sydney Science Park will embrace the circular economy and deliver cost effective energy solutions and benefits for the whole of community.
The developers have also partnered with UTS and are exploring autonomous technologies to overcome mobility challenges and by offering access to ultra-high speed internet the Science Park will attract new sectors such as big data analytics and gaming technology companies.
Employment projections indicate that the Science Park alone will create over 12,000 knowledge-based jobs (see The Urban Developer). This is great news for the residents of Penrith and surrounding areas.
North South Rail
Planning new growth centres around key transport infrastructure makes a lot of sense. Penrith City Council’s preferred North South Rail route will connect the town centre of St Marys to the Aerotropolis via new urban hubs and this in turn will contribute new job opportunities and improve liveability. The proposed route will connect The Quarter, a specialised heath and education precinct, with the Orchard Hills Centre, an urban residential and mixed use village, to Sydney Science Park and the Northern Gateway, a new commercial precinct.
Existing Jobs and Industry
Building the “New West” has been enthusiastically embraced by Penrith Council and the local business chamber. Both organisations have clear goals to support the creation of more jobs in the region and to reduce the amount of time people spend commuting to work; a sentiment and priority reiterated by the residents of Penrith.
According to modelling by NIEIR, in 2018 there were around 86,420 local jobs within the LGA and of the 110,175 employed residents 56.4% travelled outside the region to work.
Whilst the Sydney Science Park and the Northern Gateway are expected to attract new “high tech industries” existing sectors will continue to provide job opportunities, improve job density and ensure a diversified job market well into the future.
Table 1 illustrates the contributions of the current top 5 industry sectors in terms of people employed, number of businesses and Gross Regional Product (GRP).
Table 1: Top 5 industry sectors
Population serving industries such as Health Care and Social Assistance provided over 12,500 jobs in 2017/18. This sector will continue to mature as Penrith expands its role as a regional hub and will create opportunities for SMEs seeking to activate the local economy and take advantage of surrounding developments.
The Construction sector is largely dominated by small businesses. In 2018 there were 3,527 registered construction businesses. This should come as no surprise given the number of major infrastructure projects underway in Greater Western Sydney.
The Retail sector was given a boost with the revitalisation of Penrith City and St Mary’s town centres.
Sydney Science Park and the presence of Western Sydney University will drive jobs in the Education and Training sector and local demand for professional development, upskilling and life-long learning will ensure providers of technical education thrive.
Jobs growth in the manufacturing sector has been steady over the last few years. However, Council’s ambition of creating an Advanced Manufacturing Cluster may well boost investment to meet Council’s target of an additional 3,500 jobs (see Penrith City Council: Economic Development Strategy – Building the New West, 2017)
Supporting Jobs - Industrial and Commercial Precincts
Strategically situated along Sydney’s East - West Economic Corridor, Penrith is blessed with established industrial lands and commercial precincts (as illustrated in Table 2 and Map 1) that contribute significantly to the regional economy and provide specialised support services for industry hubs.
Table 2.Existing commercial and industrial sites and the top two industries based on GRP
Source:(AEC Group unpublished 2019)
Erskine Park, for example, is well served by transport links and is ideally located to accommodate future growth of the Transport, Postal and Warehousing sector. Contributing in excess of $424 M GRP in 2016/17 (see Chart 1) this sector is forecast to grow with Council predicting an additional 2,500 jobs in Advanced Logistics (seePenrith City Council: Economic Development Strategy – Building the New West, 2017).
Chart 1: Erskine Park Industrial Precinct – Gross Regional Product for Transport, Postal and Warehousing Sector 2006 – 2017
Source:(AEC Group unpublished 2019)
What differentiates Penrith from neighbouring areas is access to relatively affordable first-rate industrial lands and commercial centres.
Penrith City Council owns 47.8 ha of land in the Penrith City Centre and, according to NSW Government sources,[i]the Northern Gateway linked to Western Sydney Airport offers 4,000 ha of land, 14 times the size of Sydney CBD.
Place making and tourism
Like other councils in the Western Sydney City Deal, Penrith City Council is committed to investing in place making activities, enhancing amenities and growing the visitor economy.
Due for completion mid-2019, the “East Bank” alongside the Great River Walk is a stunning example of a newly developed restaurant precinct along the Nepean River that is already popular with residents and visitors alike.
Destination NSW and Penrith City Council are seeking to develop the Tourism Sector and their strategies are working. In 2018 the visitor economy contributed around $417 million to the local economy. In 2017 there was just under 1,500 tourism businesses operating in the LGA and this number will grow to meet demand. In the year ended March 2018, Penrith received 1.4 million international and domestic overnight and day trip visitors, up 6% on the year ended March 2017 (see Tourism Research Australia LGA profile 2017).
Located at the foot of the Blue Mountains National Park the city offers a raft of outdoor activities and all-year-round sporting activities centred around the Nepean River and Penrith Lakes.
Offering unique experiences such as indoor skydiving and high pressure water-powered flights Penrith’s “Not your Usual”adventure sports and extreme recreational activities have become a major drawcard for those seeking “heart pumping” thrills.
Alongside other leading attractions like the Joan Sutherland Performing Art Centre, Panthers Leagues Club, Sydney International Regatta Centre, and the Penrith Regional Gallery, Penrith’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage create an attractive lifestyle.
Penrith is a close-knit community; residents stay and families don’t move away. Ambitious, talented and driven, Penrith’s workforce is skilled-up, ready and able to serve.
More than five million travellers are expected to pass through Western Sydney Airport in the first year of operation and this number will double to 10 million by 2031. With a target of an additional 55,000 local jobs by 2031 Penrith City Council is eager to encourage investment in industry sectors set to benefit from being close to the aerotropolis.
These include Tourism, Advanced Manufacturing, Food Innovation, Health and Education and Advanced Logistics.
If Tourism isn’t your cup of tea, there are opportunities in existing industrial and commercial precincts, and if the jobs of the future pique your interest, check out Sydney Science Park and the Northern Gateway.
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Map 1: Employment concentrations at SA2 level along East-West Corridor
Source: ABS Census 2016 (data accessed 4 June 2019)