A south-east Queensland city is attracting next-gen tech businesses and innovative start-ups in a bid to give its residents local, high-value jobs as it styles itself on Silicon Valley in the US.
Midway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Logan has a population of 350,000 residents and is one of the fastest-growing cities in Australia.
By 2036, that population is predicted to exceed 500,000.
But for many who live in Logan, a daily commute north to Brisbane or south to the Gold Coast is the norm – something Logan City Council wants to change.
“It’s so important for Logan to have start-ups operating in our city because the jobs of the future are going to be the jobs for young people,” Deputy Mayor Jon Raven said.
“Start-ups often create high-value jobs. The great thing about a high-value job is it isn’t just one job for one person.
“When you create a high-value job, you create five other traditional jobs around it, whether that’s in hospitality, retail, or other services.
When people get paid more, they expect to have more services near where they work, and that creates more employment for everyone.
In Loganholme’s industrial area, a world-first textile-recycling facility is in full operation, a year after moving in.
Blocktexx recycles unwanted clothes, sheets, and fabrics and, through a chemical process, separates cotton and polyester fibres into cellulose and plastic pellets.
The broken-down compounds are then recycled.
The cellulose is turned into hydro-mulch to help fast-track landscaping on major building sites, and the polyester pellets are used for injection molding for playgrounds, coat hangers, and other products.
Company co-founder Graham Ross said after a search along the eastern seaboard for the right location, Queensland and Logan came out on top due to financial support on offer from both the state and local governments.
“The Logan region is uniquely positioned from a motorway point of view – we’ve got access north and south, but also west,” he said.
“We’re about half an hour away from the Brisbane Port for the export opportunity.
There’s a high percentage of our staff from this area who chose this area to live in but are looking for really high-value work.
“They’re looking for the jobs they’d probably get in the major cities in their local regions.
“And most importantly, Logan City Council was incredibly supportive out of all the councils we spoke to.”
The company employs 10 people and plans to grow to 30 staff.
“People are choosing to move to the Logan region because they want a lifestyle change, but they want that work to be local,” Mr. Ross said.
“So, rather than driving to Brisbane every day, they can get it here.
That’s a great opportunity for companies like Blocktexx.
Support for start-ups
Last year the council launched a plan for an innovation precinct in Underwood and Slacks Creek.
It targets high-level industries including aeronautical engineering, biotechnology, energy, and medical industries.
A council-run intensive venture support center, the coLab Growth Hub, is a key part of efforts to encourage more locals to think big.
The coLab is a shared workspace for local entrepreneurs with some financial backing and a product or service in testing or early production, offering residencies with mentorship from experienced business leaders and other support services.
Current companies in residence include Go1, an online education provider with roots in Logan and multiple international offices.
“It’s the state’s first unicorn, which is a billion-dollar start-up business,” Mr. Raven said.
“[Go1 was] started by Vu Tran, who is actually a Logan resident whose parents were refugees from Vietnam.”
The council’s push to diversify the city’s economy extends to an incentive fund available to businesses within key industries.
The fund offers help with moving in, gaining planning approvals, and navigating the complexities of setting up within Logan.
In addition, a new program run by the council in partnership with the state and federal governments offers tech start-ups access to the US market through a pitching program, mentorship, and the tools to take a company globally.
Logan: The world’s ‘drone delivery capital’
Logan is already catching the eye of global companies, including drone delivery company Wing.
On the roof of a Browns Plains shopping center, workers attach small yellow packages to hovering drones that zip away to drop off orders from fast food outlets, chemists, and other shops.
Wing spokesman Jonathan Bass said the company identified Logan as a suitable location for a pilot site in 2019 because of its demographics and location.
“There are a lot of families here that don’t live within walking distance from the shops so it’s on multiple fronts been a great market for drone delivery,” Mr. Bass said.
“We started small in 2019 and now we feel comfortable calling Logan the drone delivery capital of the world.
It’s the largest-volume drone delivery operation in the world today.
Mr. Bass said the company was already employing more locals as it expanded.
“Logan is growing really, really fast. I see a range of other companies moving here,” he said.
We’ve grown here faster than we’ve grown anywhere else. We have attracted local talent and I hope we can get them to stay here.
Trade and Investment Queensland chair Daniel Gschwind said Logan’s location placed it in the middle of major development areas with lifestyle advantages.
“Logan is extremely well-connected with further potential to improve the transport infrastructure,” he said.
“There’s a lot of young families, partly attracted because of the lower prices; there are a lot of migrant families that have made Logan their home and I think that brings an exciting new dynamic to a place.
“[There are] people who want to make a difference, who are in the early stages of their career, who have an innovative dynamic that develops a community.”
Mr. Raven said he hoped companies such as Blocktexx and Wing were only the start of Logan growing out of being “the bit in the middle” between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
“By bringing in innovation, we’re creating and bringing in the jobs of the future that we don’t even know to exist yet,” he said.
“And the great thing about that is there are jobs for young people – because right now, at the age of 41, I’m probably too old for a job of the future.
“But my kids and their kids will be the people who benefit from this.
We don’t know what that’s going to look like yet. But innovation is how we get there.