United, we can create a better Ballarat

It has been such a privilege to be part of the Leaders Forum journey so far, an incredibly eye-opening and thought-provoking experience. Becoming aware of how many organisations, committees, clubs, and individuals are contributing to the betterment of our community is staggering.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people who have dedicated their lives and careers to making Ballarat the fantastic place it is today, and the place we need it to be in the future. I’ve also been lucky enough to be surrounded by some of our community’s brightest minds and some potential heavyweights of the future.

At an economic development program evening, we hosted some perceptive guest speakers. Up first were Marc Amos and Mark Hogan from Regional Development Victoria. RDV is the state government’s lead agency for developing regional Victoria, with a major focus on building stronger economies and communities through employment, investment and infrastructure. Amos and Hogan spoke about the great enjoyment they receive from meeting with local government and discussing issues in their areas.  

The RDV representatives provided insight into how projects are picked for funding and the processes involved. They ask “will this industry be a major employer in the future? Will it be a valuable economic asset? Or will this project activate the area in a creative way that is economically beneficial?”. If the answer is yes, they find ways to help these organisations become the best they can be, working with them on their strategy and approach to government funding. A great example is beer company Broo’s $100 million investment in Ballarat, which will employ up to 600 people.

Beer is not new to Ballarat, as we found out from Geraldine Lewis, Federation University’s business development manager. She explained Ballarat’s rich history with beer, dating back to the gold rush era, and the creation of the iconic Ballarat Bertie.

Recent developments show the growing momentum and energy across the city to help fulfill Ballarat’s aim of becoming the beer capital of Australia.

Prominent institutions like Federation University and government departments like RDV have strong funding streams, stability and great corporate structures. As a business owner myself, I know the real struggles of a small business in its foundation years.

Malcolm Sachs from Cubby Haus Brewery gave an honest and refreshing rundown of the real-time issues of a microbrewery business in Ballarat. He discussed issues around ensuring that small breweries don’t get left behind with all these big plans for beer in Ballarat’s future, and having to sometimes jump up and down as the little guy to get a voice in a big industry.

Common themes revisited throughout the evening were the need for strong community leaders, community engagement and lots of communication between stakeholders. The ability to co-operate and work with multiple community partners is essential to the survival of our region. The ability for different stakeholders to come together is what drives our success lobbying governments for our needs now and into the future.

United, our community is incredibly powerful and efficient, compared to a group of individuals all lobbying for similar but slightly different objectives. Dream big and think as a community, Ballarat.

Dylan Lesock was a 2017 Leaders Forum participant. The annual forum is Leadership Ballarat & Western Region’s experiential learning program for emerging leaders.