He’s the man who coined the term ‘seachange’ and has built a reputation for predicting some of the biggest cultural and business trends to take place in the last decade. So when futurist and social commentator bernard salt came to the sunshine coast recently, we found out what the future holds for business in the region.

As American business magnate Warren Buff ett once said, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago”.

When it comes to business, it is those with the foresight to think ahead that tend to succeed; those who envision and anticipate society’s future needs and plant the seeds to address them.

As a partner with global advisory fi rm KPMG and the founder of specialist advisory business KPMG demographics, Bernard Salt analyses demographics and data sets to predict social and business trends in Australia – a valuable tool for those looking to maximise return on their investments. Here he shares his predictions for the Sunshine Coast region.

Time of growth for the Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast is the ninth most popular location to live in the country – a rank Bernard predicts will maintain 35 years from now.

“The Sunshine Coast is now certainly based in the top 10 cities in Australia in terms of population at 300,000 people, and that population will double over the next 30 years by 2050, to grow as big as the Gold Coast is today,” he says.

“I’ve looked at demographic data sets through census, through retail sales, and through property sales for 20 plus years, and there is one common denominator that reflects a cultural truth about the Australian people and how they behave and how they spend money – the fact that we are obsessed with lifestyle.

“With the retirement of the baby boomer generation, the pursuit of lifestyle will drive city and urban growth right across Australia, and certainly for the Sunshine Coast.”

Innovation, entrepreneurship and a can-do attitude would be the hallmarks of a place like the Sunshine Coast.

Breeding ground for entrepreneurs

“Thanks to the prosperity in GDP (gross domestic product) experienced by Gen Y from the early ‘90s to the present day, a culture of aspiration has been created, with this generation focused around creating start-ups,” he says. “What we have is the most extraordinary era of confidence that is shaping consumers’ thinking.”

The Sunshine Coast has the largest percentage of entrepreneurs compared to any other city of its size in Australia, including Brisbane, Gold Coast and Toowoomba – 22% run their own business; quite the feat considering only 15% of Australia’s entire population are in this position.

“The Sunshine Coast has a can-do culture. You are more entrepreneurial than any other city of the same scale across the continent,” he says.

But with more people and more competition for jobs and between businesses, Bernard says we must think smarter about the future.

“You can be the smartest person in the room, you can work 24/7, but if you’re in the wrong industry, in the wrong place, at the wrong time in history, all your effort, intellect, hard work and application for your working career will be just pushing in the wrong direction.

“The currents are in health care, professional services, construction and education, but in order to get a job in the booming industries, you need to be a knowledge worker or need technical training.”

Investing in regional cities

While the Sunshine Coast has affordability and lifestyle on its side, Bernard says that in order to drive the region further and maximise the its potential, we must create more jobs on the Coast.

“We need to be taking more jobs from the city (Brisbane) and distributing them on the Coast for practical reasons. Seven thousand people at the last census (2011) travelled from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane for work,” he says.

“We need decentralisation of jobs. We have too big a canvas, too small a population, and too small a tax base to deal with the current situation. I think at a big picture strategic planning level, this information is compelling. This is an irresistible argument for investment in regional cities with jobs.”