STAWELL - StawellBiz and Northern Grampians Shire Council have forged a strong partnership to continue driving economic development in Stawell.
Council's economic development team has maintained a strong focus on reducing the number of vacant shops in Stawell, particularly within the central business district and believe they have made strong headway into achieving their goal.
Economic development team leader, Debbie Bach, said a survey conducted in December last year revealed that there were 15 vacant shops within the Main Street. A follow up survey last week showed this number had been reduced to just five.
Mrs Bach said other business developments were also pending which could see this number reduced even further.
"We have been speaking to a lot of people and answering a lot of business enquiries," Mrs Bach said.
"It's not just a matter of waiting for businesses to come to us. We are out there working hard to try and attract new businesses to Stawell and see what we can do for existing businesses to assist them in expanding.
"The economic development team and StawellBiz committee have also made a commitment to form a welcoming committee for any new business to Stawell. When they arrive, we will be here to welcome them and ask what we can do to assist them."
Northern Grampians Shire chief executive officer, Justine Linley, said the formation of such relationships was vital to Stawell's future.
"It is about forming relationships with business groups. We are very pro-active as a council in the area of economic development and where it is good to work with an organisation such as StawellBiz to keep the flow of information going," Mrs Linley said.
"We are able to bounce ideas off each other and come up with ways to boost the economy of Stawell.
"It's not all about filling empty shops either. It could be we discover there is a market for a certain product that is not currently available in Stawell. By working together, we can work out how to go about getting the products on the shelves and satisfying the needs of our residents."
Mrs Linley praised business operators who had shown great vision in either relocating or expanding their businesses within the central business district. She also praised Beth Gibson and Kim Harvey for their transformation of the Post Office Arcade.
"The arcade really was looking old and tired, but is in a prime location in Stawell," Mrs Linley said.
"The redevelopment has allowed locally made products to be showcased and it has succeeded in flushing out some hidden talents and creativity within the town. With that brings opportunities for future development."
Mrs Linley said council was now working on plans to ensure the smooth movement of foot traffic from the Baylis Street carpark to the central business district, once the laneway is closed for works to proceed at 108 Main Street.
"There is real potential there for both Amcal Pharmacy and the Post Office Arcade businesses to capitalise on the extra through traffic that these works will create for them," Mrs Linley said.
Mrs Linley said a big winner for Stawell was the diversity of businesses that ensured everyone was catered for.
"Our cafes and food premises all cater for different clientele, we have gift shops that stock different products and the list goes on. People come to Stawell to experience the people and the atmosphere and we need to be able to cater for that. I think businesses are doing that now because of the diversity that is offered," she said.
"It is important we continue to work together in that way and provide the experience that people are looking for. We don't want to be competing with each other within the same town, because we are already competing against larger centres such as Ballarat and Horsham.
"If we work together then Stawell as a whole will continue to benefit."