CLOSELY linked to the agricultural and mining industries, advanced manufacturing poses great potential in growing and diversifying regional WA's economy.
The Regional Australia Institute researched the best, most effective industries to draw attention to in order to have maximum benefit for regional WA.
Advanced manufacturing was one of four industries identified in the Regional Growth Prospects report as having high growth potential for employment and the economy.
Advanced manufacturing involves the production of higher value, more complicated products than traditional manufacturing, such as producing chemicals, medicines, machines, technical equipment and appliances.
In 2016, there were 31,286 advanced manufacturing jobs in regional Australia, which is a reduction of 23 per cent since 2011.
This reflects declines in the broader manufacturing industry while Australia's total employment has increased.
Advanced manufacturing is more prominent in some regional economies than others and in most cases, the regions that specialise in the industry are smaller, more remote and shaped on local skills and ingenuity.
Across Australia and in WA, the report found there to be only a small number of regions where advanced manufacturing is vital for local employment.
Out of the top five regions where advanced manufacturing was important for local employment in Australia, Harvey ranked number one with a proportion of 7.1pc of industry jobs, and Perenjori rounded out the top five, with an industry proportion of 4.3pc.
Jobs in the Harvey region that contribute to this figure are in relation to inorganic chemicals, synthetic resin and synthetic rubber, while Perenjori has a focus of jobs in equipment manufacturing for the construction and mining industries.
As the most specialised region in the Australian regional industry, Harvey, as well as many other regions, has had a specialisation in advanced manufacturing over the long-term with limited change over time.
Perenjori has seen substantial growth in the industry from 2011-16, going from zero jobs to 30 due to a major mining operation in 2013.
The spatial distribution of specialised advanced manufacturing local government areas (LGAs) is partly explained by the companies which underpin the industry.
The report named four WA companies that account for a large proportion of the State's regional advanced manufacturing workforce, including Cristal at Harvey; Simoca Operation, also at Harvey; Dongara Marine, Irwin and Pederick Engineering, West Arthur.
Regions that specialise in the industry tend to produce a niche product that is specific to that area, which results in a workforce that is highly skilled in a niche area of manufacturing, which in some cases can produce items that are nationally and internationally competitive.
The report suggested that support for advanced manufacturing in WA should be specifically targeted to the regions of Beverley, Cunderdin, Harvey, Irwin, Perenjori and West Arthur.
Typically the bulk of the jobs are concentrated to one or two companies, both for smaller, isolated regions and larger, more populated regions.
Seeing as only a small number of areas specialise in advanced manufacturing, the report emphasised that a Statewide strategy would have limited benefit, as opposed to target policies that are specific to the six identified WA areas.
The report wrote that focussing on the specific regions and supporting the few companies that operate in those areas, such as providing some guarantee that sufficient workforce demands can be met through migration to the regions, would be the most efficient approach for policy decisions.