Ballarat's strong economic growth should put it in a "strong position" for post-coronavirus recovery, according to one study.
Despite thousands of job losses across the city since March, when the pandemic struck and destroyed the thriving tourism and hospitality industries, Ballarat has ranked number one in Australia in the June 2020 City Report from Polis Partners.
Using two factors - economic growth and inclusive growth - the report notes Ballarat has had stronger growth than Geelong and every capital city.
Economic growth is determined using a ranking of job, population, and business growth, and the construction pipeline, while inclusive growth, measured with the unemployment rate and welfare payments per capital, shows how that economic growth is actually benefiting residents.
Polis Partners director and report author Rob Tyson described Ballarat as being a "Goldilocks" city, which put it on top.
Geelong was ranked second, Bacchus Marsh third, and Newcastle-Maitland fourth.
"Ballarat is ranked number one because on all measures, it's outperforming its historic averages, it's on an upward trajectory," he said.
"(Goldilocks cities have) just the right balance of big city job opportunities, industry diversity and amenity without the prices, crowds and traffic jams (and) are also generating economic growth with equality. The benefits are spread across the population."
The City Report is released every six months as updated data becomes available - the latest uses statistics from the December 2019 quarter.
Ballarat didn't have a top 10 ranking for each measure, but was "consistently strong across all measures", the report states.
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This shows "well-rounded economic and inclusive growth", while the infrastructure pipeline is being driven by projects like the Mair Street GovHub.
The report provides an opportunity to see a snapshot of 101 cities and towns in their own contexts, Mr Tyson said.
"Every city, every town, has a fierce identity, they're proud of their city, but when you're talking about the economics of it, often the nuances get lost when you're talking about averages or state level figures," he said.
"If you're talking about Ballarat or Geelong, they often get overshadowed by discussions on Melbourne.
"By focusing on the town itself, it means you can then look much wider, and compare the performance of Ballarat versus Geelong, versus Bacchus Marsh, versus somewhere on the Queensland coast, it's all relative because they're looking at one another rather than looking at who has the absolute lowest unemployment rate."
This information will be "critical" for establishing a benchmark, as economies emerge from the coronavirus.
"I think recognising that every city and town prior to Covid-19 was on a slightly different trajectory, and was facing a different situation - that situation is going to shape how they respond to the current crisis and all the government policies put in place to help the recovery," Mr Tyson said.
"Coming out the other side, I think things like jobs, unemployment rate, and welfare dependency are going to be absolutely critical to keep an eye on, but also the difference between locations - you might get a rebound quite quickly in Ballarat, but are you seeing the same rebound in Geelong or Bacchus Marsh, or somewhere in Queensland or South Australia?
"If you're not seeing that consistent growth, the question is why? Then, how can you change your policies, or what more can you do on a local level."
The inclusive growth measure used in the report is a good way to track how investment and economic growth benefits the entire community, Mr Tyson said, which will be even more important during the coronavirus recovery.
"There are billions and billions spent every year investing in cities and towns, but no consistent way to understand if that investment's actually making a difference in the local economy - is it translating into more jobs for people, and less reliance on welfare payments?" he said.
"The people that are in charge of cities and towns, and the residents and businesses, get a sense of how a town is tracking, they can feel growth, they can feel if it's unsustainable and see the dynamics playing out, and what we're trying to do is put some consistent numbers on top of that.
"People focus on economic growth, and it's incredibly important, but the inclusive growth measures are trying to understand how that economic growth is affecting the town.
"If you have huge economic growth but that's not actually resulting in more jobs or lower unemployment rates, or you still have a lot of people on welfare payments, you have to question whether that economic growth is hitting its mark and whether it's sustainable."
You can read the full City Report below.
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