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Lights On Penrith: Made Here industry forum

Keynote speaker, Investment NSW’ Modern Manufacturing Taskforce chairman Tony Shepherd AO. All photos: Ben Halcomb, 7Chairs Photography

Penrith businesses must be bold, creative and brave and receive government support to return Australia to self-sufficiency and another manufacturing golden age.

That was the key message at the latest Penrith Valley Chamber industry forum recently.

Sponsored by Penrith Council, Made Here was held at Manufactor, the $100 million repurposed Crane Enfield site along Castlereagh Rd and was the fourth in the chamber’s Lights On Penrith series.

The extent of opportunity, growth and change for manufacturing in Penrith was the topic of discussion and learning.

Chamber president and emcee Richard Fox

Chamber president and emcee Richard Fox said the event was an opportunity for industry to collaborate, learn, share resources and discuss challenges and solutions affecting those who ``make it here’’ in the Penrith Valley.

Keynote speaker, Investment NSW’ Modern Manufacturing Taskforce chairman Tony Shepherd AO, used examples from the past to urge businesses to be bold, creative and brave.

Australia was the third country to launch its own satellite, invented lifechanging products like the Cochlear ear implant and used to be self-sufficient.

A return to the golden age of manufacturing ``can be done – it’s just a matter of focus, capital and providing the people’’, Mr Shepherd said.

``This is a time of change.’’

State and federal governments should support and commission local manufacturers and steer the future of the industry, while industry should engage more with school children and develop more apprentices, Mr Shepherd said.

He also encouraged businesses to work together on products, a point supported by Western Sydney University advanced manufacturing industry innovation lead Dr Anders Hallgren who spoke about the future of the industry.

Penrith Mayor Tricia Hitchen

Penrith Mayor Tricia Hitchen said the future for manufacturing business in the region was looking bright as the city underwent an unprecedented period of transformational change.

Penrith’s manufacturing history dated back to early European settlement spanning agriculture, quarrying, tanneries, vineyards and dairies, and the vision of entrepreneurs such as Aon Ari Principal John Joannou, who transformed the 12ha former Crane Enfield Site into a manufacturing and food hub, would lead Penrith into the future, she said.

``Today, Penrith remains a focal point for manufacturing: with over 820 manufacturing businesses employing over 6,750 local people, it's the fifth-largest employment sector in our City,'' Cr Hitchen said.

``This includes industries that enable manufacturing such as freight, logistics and warehousing, and it is our most productive industry, generating almost $7 billion dollars for the Penrith economy.''

There was potential for 37 per cent of all Greater Sydney’s new employment lands supply to be located in Penrith city and that the growth of manufacturing was limitless with the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport due to lift off in 2026, Cr Hitchen said.

Western Sydney University strategy and delivery manager Tom Nance outlined Penrith’s current demographics, saying manufacturing was the ``unsung hero’’ in the region’s destiny with a massive workforce embedded in the local community.

NAB business banking’s Adam Buckley said the calibre of manufacturing businesses with turnovers between $50 and $100 million in Penrith was ``mindboggling’’, while Investment NSW’ Warwick Scherf encouraged businesses to tap into the available government support that helped them access international trade and markets.

BDO NSW strategy and transformation lead Justin Harness spoke about Environmental Social Governance (ESG), a subject almost 60 per cent of business owners at the forum admitting they knew nothing about.

(ESG is a collection of corporate performance evaluation criteria that assess the robustness of a company's governance mechanisms and its ability to manage its environmental and social impacts.)

Western Sydney University advanced manufacturing industry innovation lead Dr Anders Hallgren

Issues such as environmental commitment and modern slavery were increasingly important to clients and staff, so Mr Harness encouraged businesses to embrace ESG policies rather than waiting for regulations that forced them to.

Western Sydney Parkland Authority research skill and tech advanced manufacturing executive director Ben Kitcher outlined the Advanced Manufacturing Research Facility and the Made Here event included two panels of local business and industry experts moderated by BDO’s Peter Tracey.

Underground Coffee Roasters served refreshments throughout the day, Brisket Boys provided American-style barbecue burgers and there were brews from host venue Drink West.

This event was supported by sponsors Time & People, Drink West, BDO and Penrith City Council.

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Norman Lindsay Gallery, Faulconbridge.

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