Shire's economy growing

REGION - The economic wellbeing of the Northern Grampians Shire continues to be a top priority for council.

Council, recognised as a leader in driving economic development in the state, has granted permission to its chief executive officer Justine Linley to provide a submission to an inquiry into Local Economic Development Initiatives in Victoria.

The move stems from an earlier decision in May, when it was resolved to further investigate council's economic development strategy in order to ensure it is maximising return on its investment in economic development.

Ms Linley said the issue had also been widely discussed at three separate Economic Development and Marketing Committee meetings with presentations from herself, the Acting Director Marketing and Community and Manager Business Services and Tourism.

In addition, Ms Linley said she had received a letter from the Chair of the Parliament of Victoria's Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee, Mr Neale Burgess, requesting input into the committee's inquiry.

The inquiry has several purposes, including to:

Examine the range of existing local economic development programs being carried out in Victorian municipalities.

Examine the appropriate role of local government in generating economic development and review the allocation of responsibility in this area with the State Government.

Examine whether the role of local government in rural and regional areas has different economic development tasks to that of metropolitan based municipalities.

Identify the barriers to local economic development, including compliance costs for business and planning delays, in operating in local municipalities and develop solutions to address these barriers.

Examine ways in which municipal councils and the Victorian Government can jointly support local economic development, enhance and promote employment and attract new investment, especially in localities with emerging economic potential.

Investigate best practice local economic development initiatives relevant to the terms of reference.

Ms Linley said it was important to recognise that the economy of the Northern Grampians had steadily grown over recent years.

"Over a five year period between 2006-07 and 2010-11, the Northern Grampians economy has grown by 14.3%, or an average of 3.4% annually," Ms Linley said.

"This makes it the fastest growing economy within the Wimmera Southern Mallee. The average annual Gross Regional Product (GRP) growth rate for the Northern Grampians exceeds that of Victoria overall, reflecting the importance of the agricultural sector and changed climatic conditions in recent years which has boosted production."

Ms Linley said Northern Grampians operates a hybrid of traditional and innovative economic development and tourism policies.

Council's current economic development 'strategy' is contained within the Council Plan.

"The basis of this approach relies a great deal on the culture of communities and businesses throughout the shire," Ms Linley said.

"The culture of Northern Grampians is one that values relationships more than transactions and our approach to economic development has been built on establishing and developing relationships, not on purely monetary or transactional terms."

Ms Linley pointed to major employers in Stawell Gold Mines and Frewstal abattoir as the major contributors to the shire's economic wellbeing and growth, along with agriculture.

She said council had also developed industry sector plans in the areas of agriculture, manufacturing, transport and logistics, health, tourism and retail , with the aim being to strengthen each of these areas to ensure economic prosperity, as well as tackle infrastructure shortages and other shortages within the shire.

Some of the key objectives of the industry sector plans are to establish a basis for decision making on where to invest economic development resources and achieve 'best benefit' outcomes, provide options and scenarios for immediate and future growth within the identified sectors and provide recommendations on possible local government interventions to achieve better return on investment of public money.

This will allow the shire to secure business expansion, new external investment or the attraction of new businesses to the shire.

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