Council support for business

STAWELL - Northern Grampians Shire Council has continued to firm up its commitment to supporting businesses across the shire.

Discussing a report relating to the council's Economic Development Partnerships project, councillors were unanimous in their support for businesses and the need for this to continue.

Council's Manager Business Services and Tourism, Debbie Bach, said through this engagement, council officers had identified business challenges and gaps where council can provide assistance to help businesses in their development.

"We recognise that, while a 'one size-fits-all' approach is inappropriate, it is important to have a common understanding and a set of principles to underpin economic development in the shire," Mrs Bach said.

"The need to recognise and embrace the shire's regional diversity is particularly important.

"We have unique benefits to offer potential investors and our townships and localities vary significantly in terms of issues such as population, geography, and resources. The natural and historical benefits of our shire combine to create a place which offers a strong environment to live, work and invest.

"In responding to development needs, the Business and Tourism and Environment and Regulatory Services departments recognise that council needs to be guided by a sound evidence base and informed research that identifies the current trends and projects that are likely to have a lasting impact on our economic performance."

Cr Wayne Rice said from council's point of view, the focus has not changed.

"We understand it is an absolute struggle at the moment to make things happen from an economic development point of view," Cr Rice said.

"Certainly without causing too much cross contamination here with the Project Control Group with what we know is going to happen with the Stawell Gold Mines site, but as soon as we do something and we seem to be happy with where we're at in getting the process to the state and federal politicians, somebody else somewhere else seems to want to come up and trump us.

"Before you know it Geelong is coming out and saying Ford's closing, then we get momentum running and Geelong says now we're going to lose Alcoa. The other day we seemed to be going quite nicely and then Shepparton pop their head up.

"It has been difficult to keep the economic development stuff going when, on top of that, we've had fires and floods.

"We're still going along quite nicely and talking to the real state agents last week, homes in this area are selling very well and at good prices.

"I know this doesn't equate to new shops or new factories opening up, but it does show we are doing something right.

"In discussions I have had with people in recent times, as sad as it might be and I don't want be seen to be a pessimist, but I think Australia as a manufacturing nation is in diabolic trouble.

"Our future is in food production, as Australia has good, clean, healthy food that is sought after right around the world.

"So we may not be putting up factories, we may not be opening up new shops, but I'm sure there are golden opportunities there, certainly with what is going on with the Project Control Group in relation to what we are planning for with the mine site."

Cr Tony Driscoll said council needed to grasp every opportunity that is presented to it.

"We are all aware of the diversity of our shire and agriculture certainly is the big driver," Cr Driscoll said.

"There is an opportunity there to virtually double our food production by 2030 and that will be a big challenge for us.

"Manufacturing isn't there, but at the end of the day, people still have to eat and we have agriculture, tourism and all those sorts of things and it's a matter of us exploiting each opportunity that comes up.

"We just need to keep batting away and making the most of our opportunities."

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