PRESIDENT of Young Professionals Gold Coast Sean Braybrook says as the city continues to evolve as one of the most dynamic places in the country, it’s vitally important the community supports and encourages those willing to push the boundaries.
Braybrook, who works as the Strategy and Operations Manager at Study Gold Coast, says the city is on the cusp of greatness but it will only reach its full potential if leaders and community members are willing to embrace change.
“We can’t be afraid of change or remain static because the city will stagnate,” he says.
“We need to galvanise support around the projects and developments that have the capacity to generate growth while industry leaders need to continue to diversify the economy.”
In Braybrook’s current role he is partly responsible for growing the city’s education sector. However, one of his most proud achievements is being appointed the head of YP Gold Coast where he works with a team to motivate, inspire and influence the next generation of city leaders.
“I’d have to say that my current position as President of YP Gold Coast is certainly something I’ve loved as I get to work with an incredible group of people who are passionate about this city and its future,” says Braybrook.
In this Q&A, Braybrook discusses diversifying the Gold Coast economy, the importance of a united voice, and his vision for establishing the Gold Coast as the lifestyle hub of Australia.
What makes the Gold Coast a great place to live and work?
Where do I start? Simply put, the Gold Coast offers anyone and everyone the opportunity to pursue big ideas. It is a city where dreams become reality and it is the stomping ground for both worldly investors and those with passion projects. Whether it is Wanda Ridong who wants to invest $1 billion in a new residential project, or local restaurateur’s Simon Gloftis and Adam Haralampou with new food offerings, the Gold Coast offers support and encouragement to big-thinkers and exudes a ‘have a go’ attitude.
With the Commonwealth Games just around the corner and a stable local government, I wholeheartedly believe the city is on the cusp of greatness. Right now a number of factors are combining in the city’s favour to make it one of most dynamic places in the country and it’s important that as a community we back anyone willing to push the boundaries and we celebrate our successes.
When you combine the Gold Coast’s palpable energy with its lifestyle, you get something special. Not many people can say they get to go to the beach in the morning before work. The commute is easy (by major capital standards) and the people are amazing.
Why are you so passionate about educating future generations of city leaders about the Gold Coast’s potential?
I joined YP because I wanted to help build the conversation about what the Gold Coast is and can be. We can’t be afraid of change or remain static because the city will stagnate. We need to galvanise support around the projects and developments that have the capacity to generate growth while industry leaders need to continue to diversify the economy. Most importantly I wanted to be part of an organisation that looked at the Gold Coast as a whole and understood its potential.
Why is it so important that the city evolves and diversifies?
Research and education, culture and the arts, and innovation and entrepreneurship attract and retain our best and brightest so we need to get behind initiatives that support this vision for the Gold Coast. If you look at the health and knowledge precinct, initiatives such as CoSpaces, Bleach* Festival, the Miami Marketta and the Night Quarter – they are all incredibly successful and all represent the change occurring in the city. No longer are we just reliant on tourism, and although development and tourism will always quite rightly have their place, the elements I’ve outlined feed into these and help support those industries. People only invest in and visit cities that are dynamic and culturally and economically diverse.
What do you believe are some of the challenges the city is facing, and what can the Gold Coast do to overcome these?
The single biggest obstacle is the lack of a combined vison for the city. The horse has bolted on being a sleepy seaside resort of individual villages for vacationers and people need to understand that for us to continue to live and work here we need to support policies that will provide jobs. It’s no use having a great lifestyle if there is no work. This feeds into the issues facing the city particularly around big projects that have the capacity to change the Gold Coast.
Each major business group, community groups, residents and other stakeholders need to work together to create this vision to combat the spread-out nature of the city. There needs to be one community or business-based forum that is representative of the entire city.
We need the community to rally behind and support big ideas currently at play. Whether its Southport’s role as the city’s CBD, the light rail extension, the cultural precinct, the health and knowledge precinct - we need to stop thinking small and back the growth of the city. It’s quite amazing that we live in a place where rather than getting behind some amazing projects we are fixated on the negatives instead of the positives.
This is a great place to live and work. Yes, we need to get the balance right when it comes to development and sacrificing our lifestyle, but the aim should be to actively work with the construction sector to create projects that are world-class and complementary to the city, rather than knock them down due to an outdated vision for the Gold Coast. If life-style is the aim, let’s support green developments and the creation of more open space via creative thinking – look at the New York Highline as a great example. Let’s identify and agree on a set-of trade-offs for projects to ensure that investment continues while also providing positive public benefits.
Our focus then has to be on providing a coherent vision that we can all follow and focus around what it means to be a Gold Coaster. I think this focus needs to be about branding ourselves as the country’s lifestyle capital; a message that can translate across the traditional drivers of tourism and development, but is equally important to growing the education sector or attracting SME’s. Everything falls in behind this message whether it’s supporting the light-rail extension, the development of cultural hubs or even surfing reserves – it allows us to build a set of values and a brand that differentiates us from the other major cities and allows us to carve our own niche globally.
The most critical element for these points to work is for the community to get actively engaged in the city. A coordinated approach on issues of key importance is needed to drive the changes we want to occur in the city.
What needs to be done to create more jobs on the Gold Coast, and grow the city’s corporate culture?
A clear focus needs to be placed on the development of more entrepreneurial hubs and greater linkages between the corporate and education sector. Local government and our community can play a role here and we can take ownership of the entrepreneurial space nationally if we work together. By focusing on the factors we can control, in terms of incentive schemes for operators, we have an opportunity to develop more co-working spaces and innovation hubs that act as a focal point for new business development. We need to concentrate our efforts on creating an entrepreneur-friendly environment which will help boost jobs growth. This can happen by reducing certain regulations and charges levied on business that can hinder success in the first few crucial years of a company’s life.
We might still have some challenges attracting big corporates to relocate but if we focus on building an environment supportive of new business we can carve out our niche as a hub for start-ups – tech or non-tech based. This will in-turn encourage talent to set themselves up here and establish ourselves as a supportive location for businesses to set-up and start growing. This is how we can build a stronger and more varied corporate sector which will help protect us from any big global shocks to the economy.
The entry costs for a business is so much lower here than in the other major capitals, we have international airport links and we are part of the great south-east Queensland/northern NSW metro hub. This last point in particular is critical because all of a sudden you start thinking not just in terms of the Gold Coast but the fact that within an estimated two hour drive you have access to a market of around 3.5 million people. Again, if we focus on telling this story we have a great chance of showing to everyone that we are a viable place to set up a venture over the long-term.
This approach can help us mature from our boom/bust cycle to a more stable pattern of growth.
What is the city missing?
I think we need to refrain from thinking about this and instead look at what we have. By constantly looking at what we are missing we are destined to overlook how we can enhance what is already at our fingertips.
We have some of the best beaches around the world, an incredible natural asset in the Gold Coast Hinterland, great parks and a world-class lifestyle.
What we need to do now is focus on how we improve what we have via considered and careful planning, smart infrastructure choices and targeted business development plans that encourage diversification. Most importantly we need to do this with a united voice and stop allowing vocal minorities to hamper projects that will benefit the greater community.