OVER the next few weeks, the Sunshine Coast Daily will be publishing a range of information about the Coast's economic conditions and the wellbeing of our community.
Since taking up the mayoral reins last April, my primary task has been to facilitate a revitalisation of the region's economy, while simultaneously ensuring the elements of what makes the Sunshine Coast authentic - its vibrancy, its lifestyle, its appeal and its environment - are maintained and enhanced.
An essential step in future-proofing the regional economy is to broaden the mix of economic activity, but equally importantly, to strengthen the existing pillars of our economy and the businesses that are already here and to encourage their growth during what are difficult times for most of the nation.
So how do we choose our priorities for broadening and strengthening the economy?
The answer is to focus on the areas where we have an existing or potential strength or solid base and which offer the highest likelihood of a return for our efforts - in terms of jobs and careers for people who live locally and investment dollars that will stay in - and benefit - the region for the longer term.
Health and wellbeing are a natural fit to our economy, given that one of the biggest health investments in the nation at the Oceanside Kawana Health Precinct is beginning to rise out of the ground this year.
Aviation is another clear choice. With a national award-winning airport, new Aerospace Precinct and proposed runway expansion, there is every reason to believe we can become a vital and attractive hub for service and maintenance of a wide range of aircraft and an exporter of aeronautical expertise.
Given the major catalysts for economic activity in the region in the next ten years are likely to be the Health Hub at Kawana, the Maroochydore Central Precinct and the Airport expansion, the other clear opportunity for us is to attract expansion - and careers - in a range of professional and knowledge services.
The professional and knowledge services sector will be at the heart of what is needed to make these three projects an outstanding success and as a result, will demand a substantial and high-value employment pipeline - which is a fantastic opportunity for this region, and particularly for our young people who are making choices about their careers and would like to be able to live and work locally.
In keeping with our vibrant, green and diverse philosophy we are seeking to become synonymous with non-fossil fuel development and solar technology through our support for many clean-tech industry endeavours.
The hinterland also plays an important part in the future of the region's economic prosperity and we are engaging with rural residents, businesses and farmers on opportunities to develop into one of Australia's premier agri-business regions in the state - while still celebrating and enhancing the unique, pristine natural characteristics that we all value so much in the hinterland.
And as is evidenced from recent announcements such as winning the Tough Mudder event, the Queensland Reds-Chiefs rugby union match, the 2016 Australian Surf Titles and more, the region is developing a quality portfolio of major events, which are of critical benefit for our tourism industry and increasingly underpin the destination choices of Australian domestic travellers.
But we cannot simply attract new industries. An important element of a successful economy is how we value and support our existing businesses.
In fact, one of the first questions I am often asked by a potential new investor is, "Who else is here and can I talk to them to find out what it is like doing business on the Sunshine Coast?".
That's why we have developed the Local Business Support Program which, among many other initiatives, connects local businesses with each other; assists businesses in emergencies as seen during the floods early in 2012; and provides an online one-stop shop - Business Ezy - to provide everything you need to know about starting and operating a business on the Coast.
In our first budget, we also moved to cut the cost of a range of development applications - another initiative to support both new investment and encourage existing businesses to grow.
The coming years will see big investment in infrastructure projects as well as master-planned town centres such as Kawana, while whole new communities such as Caloundra South and Palmview will begin to take shape.
From mid-2014, work on Maroochydore CBD will start to move and we will have finalised the environmental impact study for the expansion of the Sunshine Coast Airport so that it is well positioned to proceed.
While the Sunshine Coast will change and grow in many ways, it is my vision that at its heart it will be the region which has captured the hearts of so many who moved here to escape congested, disheartening cities and towns of the old order.