Ballarat’s business community was hungry and opportunity was on the menu as the Victorian Premier visited Ballarat for breakfast yesterday.
Speaking at the October Ballarat BisNet meeting at Alexandra on Lydiard yesterday, Ted Baillieu told the city’s business leaders of his recent trip to China an the enormous opportunities that await in the most populous nation on earth.
Mr Baillieu said the government was employing a four-fold approach to improving the state’s financial position after, he says, the Coalition inherited an “unsustainable” budget.
He said the approach involves providing a sustainable budget, focusing on productivity, growing markets and helping business in transition.
“Ballarat sits well with all of that,” he said.
“There are some 8000 businesses in Ballarat and 18,000 in the region and there’s obviously a significant and historic manufacturing base here,” he said.
“We’ve put a billion dollars into regional growth fund (and) we’ve put 1.6 million into detailed planning for the Ballarat West Employment Zone.”
Mr Baillieu said the Employment Zone could prove to be one of the most important parts of Ballarat’s future.
“Its connected well to rail, connected to the airport, connected to road, easy access and its green fields - that’s a huge opportunity,” he said.
“If we can get on with that, there are billions of dollars worth of business for Ballarat in the future,” he said.
The Premier said Ballarat was “critical” to the future of Victoria and always had been, linking the city’s gold rush boom to new opportunities on the horizon.
“Back to the 1850s, yes, it was a lucky strike ... but after that people were ambitious, they had aspirations and came here from all over the world to be a part of it.”
“Their legacy is on show on a daily basis (and) I believe Ballarat will shine through these new opportunities.”
Mr Baillieu spoke about the role Sovereign Hill and the University of Ballarat were playing in bringing Chinese visitors to Victoria and said their example should be followed.
“China is our largest trading partner, they’re our neighbour, they’re in the same time zone ... Ballarat has deep history with the Chinese,” he said.
“I say to people, if you’re running a business and you haven’t been to China, you’re almost negligent.”