IF YOU want a successful entrepreneur's prediction of where the Lismore economy is headed, just ask Gateway Motel owner John Gardener.
The four-star Ballina Rd motel is seeking council approval for a two-stage expansion which will double the number of rooms and add a new function centre and they are planning to start on it later this year.
Gold Coast-based developer Mr Gardener said he always had the expansion planned, but its rapid progress just two years after the motel opened was a sign of Lismore's growing strength.
"I've always liked the location of the town - it's the centre of cartwheel hub - and I think once the business expands, the tourists will come," Mr Gardener said.
"I've had 35 years in the tourism industry and you need some infrastructure in the town before it will work."
The expansion will feature 12 one and two-bedroom serviced apartments and a function centre which can cater for events with 200-plus people.
The motel will also move towards a four-and-a-half star rating with reception open 16 hours a day.
Manager Luke Carter, a Lismore local, said he'd seen the motel develop a solid following since opening in 2011.
"Our occupancy rates are up 150% now since this time last year," Mr Carter said.
"Every week we get a new customer saying 'I'm now doing business in Lismore' ... it shows we do have the call for a motel of this calibre."
"What really excites me is the ability to support people in full-time work - we're easily looking at an extra four full-time jobs and probably four more casual staff."
Lismore City Council business facilitator Mark Batten said the Gateway was smartly positioning itself to take advantage of a wave of infrastructure investment in Lismore.
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