“Griffith University and Young Professionals Gold Coast have a lot in common – the most significant being that both organisations are dedicated to growing the city’s corporate culture.

Professor Ian O’Connor, Vice Chancellor and President of Griffith University, is particularly passionate about ensuring the next generation of city leaders is well equipped to take the Gold Coast to the next level.

“Part of the way a city grows is by having a talented and educated labour force,” he says.

“What we are involved in is the process of actually building or developing the next generation of workers; the next generation of professionals, and the next generation, if you like, of key members of this community who actually believe in this city and want to be part of the city.”

Professor O’Connor was appointed Vice Chancellor and President of Griffith University in January 2005.

The university has grown to be home to more than 44,000 students from more than 130 countries, and under O’Connor’s leadership, the university has become one of the Asia-Pacific region’s most influential universities with research strengths in areas that address the key issues of our time.

When asked why Griffith University chose the Gold Coast as its stomping ground, O’Connor said it was a ‘no-brainer’.

“This (the Gold Coast) is one of the most exciting and dynamic places in the country,” he says.

“This was a city which had been historically underprovided with higher education and research.

“We have spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars ensuring that the young people of this city don’t need to leave this city to be educated.”

In addition, he highlights the importance of international students to the city.

“For our international students that return home, they go back to their home country to be great advocates of the Gold Coast as a great place to live, a great place to do business and a great place work,” he says.

O’Connor will speak at the annual City Leaders Forum on November 11, where he will address key issues and opportunities facing the city.

The diversification of the Gold Coast economy will be on the agenda, with O’Connor passionate about growing the education sector in the city.

“This is a city which has a fantastic tourism industry; it is known around the world for it, and it also has this great history in property and development and that will continue,” he says. “But we have actually got to broaden the economic base of the city.”

He says the Health and Knowledge Precinct will play a key part in this.

“The Health and Knowledge Precinct is one of the great opportunities for this city for the next couple of decades,” he says.

“It is an opportunity in the middle of the city on a green-fill site to actually think through the industries that will shape the future, to build upon a collaboration between the university, the hospital and a whole range of other providers and innovators that will come to the site.”

O’Connor will join Bob East (CEO of Mantra Group), Marion Charlton (Chief Operating Officer of Gold Coast Airport), Mark Peters (CEO of Commonwealth Games Corporation) and Peta Fielding (CEO of Burleigh Brewing) on the panel for the second annual City Leaders Forum, hosted by Young Professionals Gold Coast.

O’Connor says the event provides an important opportunity for business leaders to unite with young professionals who are passionate about the future of the city.

“The Young Professionals group is a really important group – it actually brings together a group of people who are deeply committed to the city, who are in fact the city’s future,” he says.

“It provides an opportunity for a different group of people to get together, to have dialogue and to discuss and think and plan for the future of the city – a nonpartisan organisation that is underpinned by a common interest in actually bettering the Coast.

“We came on as a major sponsor because we think it is actually doing something that is incredibly important for this city.

“I think it is a great forum, a great opportunity and I would encourage as many organisations as possible to be involved.”

The event will be held on November 11 at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.