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May 3: Economic Development

By Leaders Forum 2017 participant Dylan Lesock

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 just how many organisations, committees, clubs, and individuals are actively seeking to contribute 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 constantly surrounded with some of our community’s brightest minds and some potential heavyweights of the future.

At our 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. Marc and Mark spoke in depth about the great enjoyment they receive from meeting with local government and discussing the issues they have in their areas. Finding out core values at a grassroots level is essential to the success of local government being represented adequately at state and federal levels.

The RDV representatives provided us with insight into how projects are picked for funding and the stringent 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 by working with them on their strategic direction and approach to government funding. Their key focus areas are the business, the strategic considerations of the business and the approach RDV can take to help. A great example is beer company Broo’s $100 million investment in Ballarat that will employ up to 600 local people. Also, the significant investment in a mountain bike trail at Creswick, which is set to turn the town into a national and international tourist destination.

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

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.

The common themes that were revisited throughout the evening were the need for strong community leaders, strong community engagement and lots of communication between stakeholders. The ability to cooperate and work cohesively with multiple community partners for the greater good is essential to the survival of our region. The ability for different stakeholders to come together and band around a like-minded goal is what drives our success lobbying local, state and federal governments for our region’s needs now and into the future.

I am quickly learning that, 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.