YESTERDAY’S visit by four key ministers from the Baillieu state government raised as many questions as it did answers.
While the cuts to TAFE subsidies remains an extremely hot issue, it was the bigger picture ideas which created most speculation.
SpecificallRy, the future of jobs and infrastructure growth in the Ballarat West growth zone. The government has committed almost $40 million to the development of the Western Link Road. This major investment will connect the Western Freeway with the Ballarat-Burrumbeet Road in Alfredton West and is viewed as a vital component for the city’s future.
It’s been warmly welcomed but provides only one – albeit major – piece of the puzzle. The final master plan for the Ballarat West Employment Zone was tabled at last week’s Ballarat City Council meeting and is another important step. But one of the issues raised at yesterday’s breakfast with the ministers was just how we go about attracting big employers to the zone.
We’ve seen in recent months two of our biggest manufacturing sector employers Mars and McCain tackling head-on the significant issues of business sustainability. The difficult global financial conditions and high Australian dollar has created massive complications for big companies which are exposed to these conditions.
The quite pertinent question was: Where is our next Mars or McCain?
Setting the vision and providing the appropriate infrastructure is obviously important but selling the benefits must soon become a priority. The same issue exists at the Ballarat Technology Park in the city’s south where large portions of land have been unlocked for development of the rapidly growing information technology industries.
As we saw with the failed Vertex announcement in the lead-up to the 2010 state election, there are no guarantees. What we can sell is a city which is committed to enhancing its future. We are the envy of our competitors due to our proximity to Melbourne, our strong health and education sectors and the rollout of the National Broadband Network.
It’s a positive story to tell any prospective business. As Regional Cities Minister Denis Napthine told yesterday’s audience, the government is focused on providing an atmosphere for growth in the private sector in Ballarat.
Our leaders should be holding the minister to that promise because in the climate where every new job is like gold, Ballarat needs the government to continue to invest in our future and push our case.