Wednesday, 13 December, 2017


The HRF Centre recently hosted a visit to Newcastle by the Deputy Secretary of the State of Pennsylvania, Mr Joe Burke. Burke’s role is to stimulate economic development in Pennsylvania, particularly through relationships with overseas businesses and investors.

The visit was organised Mr Adrian Price, Regional Manager for the Hunter, Central Coast and Northern NSW for the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group). It built on a number of regional links with Pennsylvania forged in recent years.

Price said that areas of Pennsylvania and the Hunter are both transforming from ‘rust-belt’ regions to modern diverse economies. He welcomed the opportunity to learn from the experiences of Pennsylvania, which he said was a ‘few years ahead’ of the Hunter in its economic transformation.

Burke’s focus is international business development for Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development. He said that international collaboration was an important contributor to the success of Pennsylvania, which he ranked among the top 20 economies in the world. He outlined a number of investment opportunities, and avenues for cooperation, between Hunter businesses and educational institutions. He highlighted high tech, medical and pharmaceutical areas as well as more traditional manufacturing and agriculture. He noted that Pennsylvania is within a day’s drive of a proportion of the US and Canadian markets.

Director of the HRF Centre, Professor Will Rifkin, welcomed Burke, on behalf of the University to its new city campus. He underlined Newcastle’s parallels with Pittsburgh, as a rust-belt city that is remaking itself. He also pointed to Pennsylvania’s mining and natural gas resource regions, which may have lessons for the Hunter Valley, given its endowment of coal, alongside racehorse studs and winegrowing.

Deputy Mayor, Cr Declan Clausen, welcomed Burke on behalf of the City of Newcastle. Also presenting for Burke at the 8 December meeting were:

  • Associate Professor Craig Wheeler, Assistant Dean, Community Relations and Marketing in UON’s Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, who provided an overview of engineering and teaching and research opportunities;
  • Malcolm St Hill, Business Development Manager for the NSW Government’s Office of Regional Development;
  • Karen Humphries, Head of Skills Point for Innovative Manufacturing, Robotics and Science for TAFE NSW; and
  • Nathanial Bavinton, Smart City Coordinator, Newcastle City Council.

Representatives from a range of Hunter businesses attended the meeting, as well, with a number of ongoing enquiries established. Burke appeared to take particular interest in the range of expertise in the University’s faculty of engineering.

Past connections with Pennsylvania have focused on the former steel-making city of Pittsburgh. In 2014, the reforming mayor of Pittsburgh, Tom Murphy, was a University of Newcastle (UON) President's Visiting Fellow.He delivered major public talks in Sydney and Newcastle on the topic of 'Building 21st Century Cities'. Murphy, who was Mayor from 1994-2006, has been recognised as one of the world's leading advocates for 'liveable cities'.

Price had also facilitated a Hunter Trade Mission to Pittsburgh in 2015. The delegation of manufacturing, university and city representatives included Professor Kevin Hall, UON’s Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation).

The HRF Centre sees hosting international representatives seeking to build connections in the region as a good fit with the Centre’s mission. We are happy to host meetings with international visitors, and we welcome the opportunity to refine the ‘pitch’ that characterises Newcastle and the region by providing cogent and understandable data on the economic context and trends. Such information can give businesses more certainty when considering investment in the region.

Contact the HRF Centre for information about facilitating your high-level meetings. Read AiGroup's report on the visit.

Download pdf (108.95 KB