The Ballarat West Employment Zone will need an intermodal freight hub as construction continues, according to industry players.
The City of Ballarat was granted $9.1 million from the federal government to establish the initial stage in the precinct, but council is calling for the state government to get on board.
The freight hub will mean trains and trucks carrying containers to and from the Port of Melbourne will have a direct contact point, with potentially the Ballarat airport as well.
This is the 'intermodal' part - changing from one form of transport to another as produce is taken to Ballarat from businesses across western Victoria.
The City of Ballarat's director of development and planning, Angelique Lush, said the first stage of the hub would involved building hard stand for trucks in land already allocated for the project.
"The federal government's money is secure, we need it to be able to do the full extent of the project - road and rail altogether - but we need a bigger bucket of money to be able to do the entirety," she said.
"When we designed the whole facility, all the roads connecting to the highway have been designed to a really large standard - you can actually get a B-triple into this precinct, which there are very few industrial precinct anywhere in Victoria you can do that.
READ MORE: Freight hub a must-have for BWEZ success
"You can come off the highway, straight into the precinct, and connect to the intermodal freight hub or to the airport precinct itself."
A state government Department of Transport spokesperson said in a statement "preliminary investigations" have been carried out.
"Noting that the Murray Basin Rail Project is standardising many of the broad gauge lines in the area, the investigation has examined both gauge options and confirmed that, subject to suitable port windows, up to several paths per day could be available for future intermodal services from BIFH to the Port of Melbourne," they said.
Having a hub in Ballarat could also bring more established operators to Ballarat, like the interstate rail and trucking freight business SCT Logistics, which uses connections in northwestern Victoria.
Managing director Geoff Smith said more rail freight would mean less trucks on the road, which is a plus for drivers and freeway maintenance.
"Places like Ballarat - or like Horsham - to stop and pick up on the way and share overall cost is a proven model, and that's where you'd envisage Ballarat fitting in to be competitive," he said.
"The one question they should be asking is if we build it, will they come?"
One business which is planning its move to BWEZ, Nhill's Luv-A-Duck, will be able to use the intermodal hub as it continues to grow.
Its chief executive, Darryl Bussell, said the $20 million value-add facility that will be built at BWEZ will initially employ about 35 people, but there's space to expand - and the promise of the freight hub could factor into plans "not immediately, but eventually".
"You can't build a factory on the site with the assumption they'll happen, you have to build with your own contingency plans, and my project will fly anyway without those things (like a freight hub)," he said.
"Some are necessary to have moving forward ... and the intermodal hub will eventually be necessary because of fuel and volume."
The Committee for Ballarat's chief executive, Michael Poulton, said it's a "significant piece of infrastructure".
"The case, back in 2013, was an incredibly strong one with realistic time frames," he said.
"Geographically, we're ideally placed to capture that national freight network that's so important in connecting the ports with the west and northwest."
Ms Lush is optimistic about the future of the project, given the industry support and long-term planning.
"The feasibility and evidence behind the freight hub is about the Ballarat port shuttle," she said.
"This can operate between here and Melbourne into the ports now, if we had the sidings and hard stand available to us."
The rest of the Ballarat West Employment Zone is continuing to "exceed expectations", according to the City of Ballarat.
A new road has been completed in the northern, Stage 1B section, connecting the initial part of the project to Airport Road, while the second wave of tenants are continuing to finalise plans.
Athlegen, which has made massage and doctor's tables and other equipment in Ballarat for 30 years, is in the process of coming up with final designs for a factory, showroom, and office.
Its chief executive Stephen Falkiner said his only criticism so far was the trees dying.
"The infrastructure's in place, we're delighted to be moving in there to a fantastic location, and it'd be very positive for us," he said.
"We're in the process of coming up with final designs, and we hope to present them within two to three weeks."
Athlegen is one of five businesses that are establishing a presence at BWEZ, joining another five initial tenants.
While there have been concerns about the project, including the postponement of the proposed waste to energy plant, the state government and the City of Ballarat remain optimistic.
READ MORE: Hiatus for Ballarat's waste-to-energy plans
Negotiations for the final 19 hectares of land available in the first stage are continuing - out of a $30 million investment from the state government and council, it's expected the sales will result in $300 million in private investment and 500 jobs.
The Victorian government will continue to work with current and prospective purchasers on land agreements.
The City of Ballarat's director of development and planning, Angelique Lush, said the business case was developed on releasing the first batch of sales across five years, but it was already up to third release.
"It has excellent take-up, and now it's in the hands of the businesses to actually develop on the sites," she said.
The run-up to BWEZ has been more than 10 years in the making, with a focus on careful and sustainable planning to propel the local economy.
"We knew we had a shortage of supply long-term for industrial land," Ms Lush said.
"(Preliminary studies) also looked at how we can retain and keep the population that lives in Ballarat that goes to Melbourne - how can we capture some of that employment and keep it here?
"It also looked at what we needed to do to push the economy of Ballarat along and to support manufacturing, because it was the GFC at the time."
That patience is necessary, added Mr Poulton, the Committee for Ballarat chief executive.
He emphasised communication must be maintained between council, the state and federal government, and businesses.
"There's a unique opportunity at BWEZ- everyone, including council, wants to see things happen more quickly, but keeping in mind planning," he said.
"Let's get it right, let's be really thorough."
City of Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said the change was startling, and would only continue as more businesses were approved.
"It's pretty amazing to have this whole package, it's not just a master plan, it's real, it's on the ground and we can see it growing," she said.
"With the link road, with an amazing airport which still has a lot of potential, and the rail as well ... businesses that are very much connected to the broader regions have come to this site, and have committed to this site because they know they've got the ability to transport the people (and) freight."
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