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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Council cautious about local economy

On 23 February, Committee members* of the Drysdale & Clifton Springs Community Association (DCSCA) discussed the prospects for the local economy with Mr. Terry Demeo, Head of the Economic Development Unit of the City of Greater Geelong (CoGG).

DCSCA had been pressing for this discussion for months. It is concerned that without detailed plans and support for local economic development, Drysdale & Clifton Springs will become a 'dormitory town' for Geelong and Melbourne. Over the next few years, the local population is planned to increase significantly - starting with the 1,500 houses in Stage 1 of the Jetty Road development. However, there is no economic plan for the area to ensure that these newcomers have jobs and so the increase in population will lead inevitably to increased commuting - a significant source of greenhouse gases, including Carbon Dioxide. Further, these new commuters will create wealth elsewhere - wealth that won't be invested in Drysdale & Clifton Springs. No new investment means no new local firms and jobs ... so more commuting!

Mr. Demeo outlined CoGG's economic strategy, which is part of the developing G21 regional economic strategy.** It seeks to build on Geelong's traditional strength in manufacturing by promoting advanced manufacturing, especially of health-related products. Queensland business consultants AEC Group are developing the strategy and will consult individual businesses, but not individual towns. In the meantime, under the banner 'Future-Proofing Geelong', CoGG is lobbying the federal government on behalf of local businesses such as Alcoa, Shell and Blue Circle, which are likely to be affected if a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme is introduced. Climate Works Australia is set to produce a Regional Low Carbon Growth Plan for the Geelong region in 2011.***

Applying the Armstrong Creek model?
The DCSCA reps. asked Mr. Demeo why CoGG's commitment to providing local jobs as an integral part of the development of Armstrong Creek isn't being applied elsewhere - e.g. to the Bellarine Peninsula. They accepted that there isn't nearly as much vacant land available on the Bellarine that there is at Armstrong Creek, but suggested that a scaled-down version of the Armstrong Creek model could be applied on the Bellarine.

Mr. Demeo responded that neither the Moolap Industrial Estate nor Point Henry (dominated by the Alcoa works) is sewered, thus limiting opportunities to develop them further; but the mussel hatcheries offshore will be expanded. He said that in his view, creating the Drysdale bypass is the biggest and best way to develop the local economy; that the economic development of the towns bypassed by the Hume Highway justified this view; and that DCSCA should work with other interested groups on the Bellarine Peninsula to secure the funding required from Vic Roads.

In the meantime. Mr. Demeo advised local business to take advantage of the workshops run by Geelong-Otway Tourism; and offered to set up a workshop in the Drysdale/Clifton Springs are at which local business would be invited to participate in a 'SWOT Analysis'. This exercise would identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats around the local economy and would be a first step in growing the local economy. (The current buzzword for this process is, apparently, 'Economic gardening'.) He said that his Unit would invite the major businesses to participate and it would be up to DCSCA to recruit others. The DCSCA reps. said that DCSCA would certainly like to accept the offer of a SWOT workshop and that fairly extensive preparation would be needed to ensure its success.

Where next?
After meeting Mr. Demeo, the DCSCA reps. discussed ways to make a SWOT workshop a success. These included: an ongoing 'campaign' (perhaps with its own logo) to encourage each local business to participate in the workshop; a 'business expo' at which local businesses could meet each other; and a 'business vision' session before the workshop, in which an inspirational speaker would encourage business owners to brainstorm ideas.

We felt that end-August was a good target date for the workshop, because between now and then there are two Springdale Business Network breakfasts and two DCSCA Public Meetings at which to promote the workshop.

* The Committe members were Doug Carson (President), Anne Brackley (Treasurer) and Patrick Hughes (Secretary)

** G21 is an association between five local councils - City of Greater Geelong, Borough of Queenscliff, Golden Plains Shire, Colac Otway and Surf Coast Shire. 76.6% of G21's funds come from the City of Greater Geelong.

*** The Plan was announced on 15 October 2010 (i.e. before the state government election). See The Low Carbon Growth Plan for Australia (2010) by Climate Works Australia:

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