Its Hinterland Benefits Sydney

What sets Sydney apart from its Asia-Pacific neighbors Singapore and Hong Kong is that it enjoys the backing of a substantial national economy behind its status as a financial services center.

That's the view of John Saunders, director general of the New South Wales Office of State Development.

"Unlike Hong Kong and Singapore, behind the financial services of Sydney lies a very substantial economy, a real anchor in agriculture, mineral resources, and manufacturing," Mr. Saunders said.

The Office of State Development acts as a "one-stop shop" in the state government for all business-development activities in New South Wales, with the exception of agricultural enterprises.

Bureaucratic Fast Track

"Government decision-making on business development comes through this office," Mr. Saunders said. "We ensure fast-track decision-making from initial client contact through to the critical final steps of a project, such as siting and environmental issues.

"Our coordinating role," he added, "is to ensure the efficiency of the business environment. And the economic development of the state and Sydney is also in our portfolio."

Mr. Saunders pointed to what is already substantial U.S. investment in the resources of New South Wales. Corporations such as Exxon, for example, are heavily involved in the coal industry.

More specific to Sydney, Mr. Saunders spotlighted high technology as one of the most important growth industries in and around the city. U.S. investment in this area is already substantial.

IBM's Construction Plans

"IBM, for instance, has committed $300 million to major new premises construction in Sydney," Mr. Saunders said. "Once this is completed, Sydney will become IBM's largest regional headquarters, rivaling even Tokyo."

In addition, Mr. Saunders said he sees immense opportunities in the telecommunications industry, of which Sydney is the Australian hub.

Within the next year, the federal government will remove the monopoly enjoyed by Telecom Australia and invite tenders for a second telecommunications carrier to enter the marketplace.

Already, two of the U.S. "baby Bells," Bell South and Bell Atlantic, have committed themselves to headquarters in Sydney, if they win the second carrier contract.

"High technology and telecommunications add up to $100 billion of gross domestic product clustered in and around Sydney," Mr. Saunders said, "and this can only increase."

What is more, according to Mr. Saunders, Sydney's physical infrastructure improvements offer special opportunities to U.S. corporations and are already attracting interest from European contractors.

Private developments, such as proposals to build privately funded inner-urban toll roads, will offer to the United States opportunities never before available in Australia.

U.S. interest is already evident with the joint venture between a local firm, CRI, and the U.S. contracting giant, Bechtel, to construct a rail-to-air link from downtown Sydney.

"Sydney is beginning to offer the sorts of business opportunities to overseas companies that no other financial center in the region can provide," Mr. Saunders said.

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