Though often overshadowed by the more densely populated East Coast, which includes Melbourne and Sydney, South Australia deserves serious consideration as a travel destination, whether for business or pleasure. Commonwealth Funds President and Head Portfolio Manager Robert Scharar recently completed a trip that included a visit to South Australia. While there, he visited the Barossa region just outside Adelaide, Australia’s premier wine area. During his visit, Scharar met with wine producers and farmers, as well as operators of noted tourist venues. For example, Scharar witnessed examples of innovation by family businesses that were adjusting to their competition by rethinking how they produce and or market their products.
Upon European settlement, the Angas family took up land in South Australia. John Howard Angas named this section Hutton Vale Farm in 1843 and to this day it remains in the family. “In addition to its beautiful scenery, we enjoyed our visit with John and Jan Angas as we learned about Hutton Vale Farm’s many facets, including grapes, wool and food growing,” Scharar said. “Their philosophy is to run each arm of the business in a sustainable manner while at the same time entwining them together as a whole.” The Barossa Valley is well known for its wines and Allister Ashmead of Elderton Wine, which was founded by his family in 1979, proved a welcoming host as he shared not only his knowledge of wine but also how a successful family business innovates.
In a meeting with Scott Dolling, Institutional Director of Adelaide based Taylor Collison Limited, a leading institutional, private brokering and portfolio management company, he validated an axiom that we believe in at the Commonwealth Funds, which is that small and medium size, regional public-traded companies offer great opportunities to those willing to investigate to find and get to know them.
“The region exemplifies a spirit of independence and self-determination that I think Texans relate to,” Scharar said.
Beyond sharing a common spirit, connections between South Australians and Texans seem poised to strengthen with the recent announcement that Houston will serve as the US location for South Australia’s new trade and investment office. The Houston office is intended to “help South Australian companies gain easier access to the American region, enabling them to make connections with key distributors in order to take their products and services to both North and South America,” according to the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, David Ridgway.
Minister Ridgway noted the industry sectors shared by Houston (and Texas) and South Australia, such as energy, healthcare, space, technology, food and wine. South Australian companies with a presence in Texas include RM Williams, NuCannaCo Science Limited and Petrosys, whose US office is in Houston. Part of the new office’s mission will be to increase business opportunities for South Australian exports, such as wine and meat, which totaled nearly $1 billion in 2017-18.
Reinforcing the connection between the two areas, more than 30 Texas companies have operations in South Australia, creating thousands of jobs. Ridgway noted additional connections, such as long-standing sister-city relationship the city of Adelaide shares with Austin, and the exchange partnerships between universities in South Australia and the University of Texas as well as Texas A&M University.
“While South Australia is really ‘down under’, you get a feeling of high optimism for the future and a well-established base from which to grow, which are also characteristic of Texas,” Scharar said.