A Brief History of the Lithgow business region
The pre-Lithgow region was primarily used for pastoral purposes and settlements were typified by small townships consisting of Inns and small stores servicing the major landowners and travellers with Bowenfels, Hartley and Hartley Vale examples of stop-over points for travellers bound for Bathurst and beyond. The industrial development of Lithgow did not occur until after a new road was constructed (to provide easier access to the western plains) and the western railway built.
The first major industrial event was the shipping of coal from Thomas Brown's Esk Bank property - a fortunate situation as the new main rail line passed directly through his property. Further fortune was in evidence as Brown could then also supply the state with coal for it's rail engines from a very convenient source. The mining of coal throughout the region encouraged the population to move inwards to what became the town of Lithgow at the cost of the more distant locations, ie Bowenfels.
Ultimately it was the railway that drove the industrialisation of Lithgow as it had a need for coal and iron and fortunately, iron was also very plentiful. Iron mills were started (some unsuccessfully) but eventually a viable industry was created that supplied the railways with steel for their lines. The region had an abundance of natural resources and three Copper Smelters were built by 1895. The Government also based their decision to construct a Small Arms factory on the availability of these resources and the regions isolation yet this was a boon to the town of Lithgow over the next decades, with high production rates creating large employment opportunities to service the needs of 2 world wars.
And there were other industries as well, flour and Tweed mils, meat proccessing, kerosene extraction - all contributing to the increase of population nad business. History shows though, that most of Lithgow's business growth was based on Government contract - a flawed premise that had severe negative effect when the wars ended and diesel power removed steam as the power source of the trains. Similarly, the regions natural resources have been sold internationally and fluctuations with exchange rates and international competitors have hit the local economy to its detriment. When combined with the geographic isolation caused by the Blue Mountains (and the high cost of transport resulting from this), the need for new and innovative industries and business has become critical.
Future development of the region is now self-driven, ie the population is now dense enough to generate its own business and careful and clever entreprenurial skills will see the area grow as it has never before. The local economy is transforming from a resource base to population base with each resident needing products and services to maintain their lifestyle. The Lithgow Business Association is here to help this happen.