Ballarat is well placed to rise above the challenges facing Victoria’s economy, according to Australian Industry Group (AIG) chief executive Innes Willox.
Speaking at the AIG annual general meeting in Ballarat last night, Mr Willox said the city was in a better position than Geelong to grow its economy.
“Geelong is going through a massive structural change,” Mr Willox said.
“Ballarat has a broader range of small to medium businesses, instead of a focus on a couple of larger businesses (like in Geelong).”
Mr Willox said Ballarat’s close proximity to Melbourne, historic industry base, development opportunities and prospects to house state government departments, like VicRoads, worked in its favour.
“Ballarat has a very strong, varied economy,” he said.
“It is well placed to do well in these challenging times.”
Some of the challenges facing the greater Australian economy included the high Australian dollar, shrinking local market and growing international competition.
Mr Willox also supported the establishment of the Ballarat West Employment Zone and said Ballarat should attract transport and logistic businesses to that area.
Education facilities like Federation University would also play an important role in up-skilling Ballarat’s workforce.
“There will be job losses in the future, businesses are now cutting the cloth,” Mr Willox said.
“We have to be a smarter nation and have to use our skills (to secure employment in the future).”
Last month the Committee for Ballarat (CFB) said it planned to rally the state government for more funding for the Ballarat West Employment Zone.
In the CFB’s Advancing Ballarat and the Western Region document, the committee said a funding injection of $15.9 million was needed to support the activation of the precinct and secure an operator for the proposed Ballarat freight hub.
Ballarat’s economy has faced some blows in the past two years, with job losses at Telstra’s Wendouree call centre (92), CMI Industries (67), SP Treads (26), Mars (38), UGL Rail (24), Alstom (33), Goodman Fielder (34), Rivers (20-25), AME at Ararat (20), Mapal Industries (7) and ongoing redundancies at SEM Fire and Rescue.