Industry and employment
Manufacturing is one of the region's traditional strengths, contributing $1.9 billion to the regional economy and accounts for around 10% of local jobs.
Just one hour south of Sydney, the Illawarra region has a skilled and mobile workforce and significant economic infrastructure that facilitates trade and investment throughout the region. Key industries include Manufacturing and Retail Trade.
Traditionally known for its industrial production and mining (steel and coal respectively), the Illawarra is well serviced with transport and freight connections. It has access to global markets through Port Kembla, the region's international trade gateway and one of NSW's largest ports.
In 2012-13, the port's major exports included coal (72%) and wheat (11%), while motor vehicles (44%) and iron ore (34%) dominated imports. Its accessibility to international markets has contributed to the region's strength in manufacturing, mainly steel production and its allied industries.
The Illawarra has strong ties to the Sydney labour and consumer market, with around 12% of the workforce commuting to Sydney. The city of Wollongong – the region's major population centre – is home to over 200,000 residents. It accounts for around 60% of the region's employment.
With a natural landscape including stretches of coastline, rivers, inlets and bays, national parks, rainforests and the Illawarra escarpment, the region attracts over six million visitors each year. With 50% of the region's total visitor expenditure in the Shoalhaven alone, the tourism industry is worth over $1.2 billion.
While Manufacturing is of continuing importance to the region's output and employment, the Illawarra is increasingly diversifying its economy, particularly into knowledge-based sectors. Leveraging its skilled workforce and high concentration of information and communications technology (ICT) graduates, the region is positioning itself as an ICT hub. Through the collaborative efforts of government, industry and the university sector, the Illawarra continues to welcome new technology-based businesses and entrepreneurs.