Five Ballarat businesses will share in more than $650,000 of federal funding to upgrade their equipment, keep employees in work, and provide long-term confidence.
Springhill Farms, Athlegen, C. E. Bartlett, Grounded Pleasures, and Paarhammer Windows and Doors will receive between $280,000 and $85,000 of in-kind funding for projects like acquiring new equipment and training workers.
Celebrating 30 years making award-winning windows and doors in Ballan, Paarhammer's Edith Paarhammer said the announcement was "the best birthday present ever".
The $85,000 federal contribution will go towards new gantries and lifting equipment in the sanding room - Ms Paarhammer said this would make the area safer and more efficient, as it will allow people to work without having to lift heavy frames.
"It'll help us be more gender neutral - some of our frames are fairly large, we make windows for bushfire areas and the timber is very dense," she said.
The factory has expanded over the years, with a sustainability focus - sawdust from the factory is compressed into briquettes which are used for heating, and a solar panel system was recently installed.
Moorabool Shire Council also upgraded the road in the industrial estate, creating a truck turning circle for the first time.
Ms Paarhammer said the family-run business would be operating out of Ballan for a "very long time", and said she was proud of the company's achievements - its bushfire-graded windows have been patented, and the company won a Victorian industry award in 2017.
"That was mindblowing for us, we wouldn't have thought window-making is a sexy enough industry to qualify," she said with a laugh.
"We have so many employees that have stayed with us for a very long time, a lot at 10, 15, even 25 years here.
"We've successfully trained more than 50 apprentices, and that's a really important milestone for us, because our employees, they're our biggest asset, we couldn't do what we do without them."
Grounded Pleasures, a Ballarat company which creates high-end hot chocolate and chai blends, will receive $100,000 to install new production equipment.
READ MORE: In The Kitchen with Grounded Pleasures
Chief executive Craig McKenzie - he describes himself as a flavour alchemist - said the new equipment would help the company move into the retail space, which will support the business while hospitality venues close during the coronavirus pandemic.
It will also further the company's relationship with Ballarat Regional Industries, providing more than 20 new jobs and training pathways for people with disabilities with a dedicated facility in Sebastopol.
"This money will be a breath of fresh air for us - we've been buying equipment like bigger mixers and packers on a needs basis as we go along," he explained.
"We've never really had a chance to stop and design a production facility that can work with us and make it easier for the people doing it, using wonderful state of the art transfers and things.
"I always say I couldn't have picked a better place to be a hot chocolate company."
C.E. Bartlett has produced textiles and blinds in Ballarat for more than 60 years - it will receive $100,000 for a new cutting machine.
Chief executive Dave O'Brien said the existing machines the company uses were getting old - the new cutter is essential as 95 per cent of the company's products flow through the cutting area.
"This is the latest and greatest - with all the technology advances, it should make us competitive in the world market," he said.
"We're competing against cheap imports, so any technological advantage we can get is great.
"We're rapt, it's good news in the current climate."
Delacombe's Springhill Farms, which manufactures natural slices and baked goods, has received $280,875.
General manager James Whately said in a statement the contribution would provide confidence in the short term, and help secure new contracts, and maintain existing ones, into the long term
"The majority of the project is to realign our internal manufacturing layout and invest in equipment which will allow us to increase our output," he said,
"Springhill Farm has been around for over 35 years; in this time as we have grown, the requirements of our quality and manufacturing systems have changed significantly. Late last year we were bursting at the seams and couldn't keep up with demand."
He noted the timing of the announcement was "perfect" for the business.
"We will start making the first steps of the realignment in two weeks, however the bulk of the work is forecast to be undertaken early next year," he said.
"Our product development team has taken the opportunity to bring forward projects that were earmarked for the second half of the year, and our Marketing Team is currently undertaking a revamp of our branding.
"When the fog of Covid-19 lifts, you will see a new look Springhill Farm, ready to take Australia by storm."
Athlegen is a Ballarat company which designs and manufactures power-driven and portable massage and treatment tables.
It will receive $100,000 to upgrade its robotic automation capacities, including buying a specialised anti-spatter robotics welding cell, which chief executive Stephen Falkiner said would bring massive improvements.
READ MORE: BWEZ freight hub encouraged
The new robot is able to weld on three axes instead of two, saving time and improving quality, as well as creating a safer environment for workers and reducing hazardous cleanups - a company document states it will provide a 224 per cent speed increase.
"We're currently regarded as having the best welds in the industry (on our products), and this will improve them further," Mr Falkiner said, adding the company had big plans for the future in Ballarat.
"We already own another site in BWEZ, where we're going to build a new factory - we're putting it on hold during the coronavirus but we will be proceeding with that," he said.
200 projects worth more than $215 million are being supported through the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund. The Federal Government is contributing $48.3 million.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.