THE City of Fremantle is reviewing its Strategic Community Plan. Freelance journalist Ryan Emery has been talking to Fremantle residents and visitors about their thoughts on the city’s future. Today’s topic is ‘Jobs for the future’.
FREMANTLE has a reputation.
Depending on who you are – and where you’re from – it’s an arty paradise full of great coffee, food, events, heritage and more.
But perhaps a little less known is that Fremantle is pretty smart. And is becoming increasingly so.
It’s always had the lawyers, architects and accountants perched on high in their heritage offices, but in recent years there has been a groundswell in engineers, tech experts, energy consultants, software designers, sustainability experts, startups and entrepreneurs.
All attracted to Fremantle for the same reasons that have drawn countless generations.
They’re also setting up shop in Fremantle because of its geographic location: it’s on the coast, just minutes from light industrial areas and just a few more minutes from heavy manufacturing at Henderson, which includes the Australian Marine Complex.
Andrew Outhwaite, managing director of For Blue, a blue economy investment and incubation company, said Fremantle is one of only a handful of hubs around the world where favourable geography, top-end manufacturing and professional services have come together in such proximity.
“Innovation and creativity happen where a range of different industries and opportunities and people from them intersect,” he said.
“Fremantle has this intermingling of people who are working on AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), people who are working on climate tech, people who are doing propeller designs for propulsion systems, people who are doing hydrofoil designs for electric jet skis.
“It happens in Fremantle organically and it can be grown in a way that is a bit harder to do in industrial estates.”
One of the relative newcomers to Fremantle is Critical Infrastructure Technologies
(CiTech), which has brought hi-tech manufacturing to the south end of Marine Terrace, South Fremantle.
CiTech has developed self-deployable communications platforms for use in the resources sector, defence and natural disasters. Ukraine has expressed interest in securing 50 of their patented devices.
Chief technology officer Andrew Hill said the company couldn’t believe its luck that it found a 3000sqm facility next to a beach, cafes, restaurants and pubs.
“The market for high-level engineers, managers and professionals is so competitive at the moment that the work environment plays heavily on their decisions about where to work,” he said.
“So companies are spending a lot more on facilities than they would have a decade ago and that’s no different for us.
“We’ve got a really good set up here. We’ve got a big lounge area, pool tables, table tennis and the guys go across to the beach and down the road with a pick of a dozen really good restaurants for lunch or dinner.
“It’s actually a really important part of recruiting and holding good people so it’s not insignificant. No longer is it a folly or a luxury to be in a good place, it’s kind of needed.”
Mr Hill said Fremantle had been under the radar for many businesses, but given how close it was to other industrial areas such as O’Connor and Myaree, and the city’s lifestyle factors, its popularity would grow.
“I think this whole precinct will become a new manufacturing hub,” he said.
“If not in Fremantle itself, then Fremantle would probably be the office end of it, the administrative part if they can’t manufacture here.”
Mr Outhwaite said Fremantle also had an opportunity to position itself as an international centre for innovative and sustainable industries if the current trend continued.
He said Fremantle companies were investigating such technologies as sub-sea robots that monitored environmental conditions, net-zero emission vessels run on hydrogen or ammonia, seaweed for bioplastics, and sonar to avoid wildlife.
“That combines with our expertise in large-scale infrastructure that can be at least environmentally neutral if not actually be net-generators of renewable energy and net-regenerators of the natural ecosystems.”
Fremantle residents can have their say about ‘Jobs for the future’ by visiting mysay.fremantle.wa.gov. au/lets-talk-freo.