Backing the Geelong region for a post-COVID future
Geelong’s job market needs all the support it can muster right now.
It is a time of great uncertainty, of emotional and financial distress, and of change.
For all of this, though, there are beacons on the horizon that spell hope for a positive return to normalcy in the, hopefully not-too-distant, future.
First is the hard work going on at the CSIRO’s Animal Health Laboratories in East Geelong, which has been mass-producing the coronavirus so scientists around the globe can work toward a vaccine.
The fact Geelong has been able to contain coronavirus infection rates is testament to a rock-solid community understanding of the crisis and a willingness to do the right thing.
We are very lucky to have the medical professionals we do, too, of course.
Other underlying strengths augur well for the future as well, such as infrastructure, geographical advantage, labour force and economic foundations.
It was very telling to see TT-Line select Geelong when they decided to pull up stumps with their Spirit of Tasmania ferry service between Melbourne and Devonport.
In similar fashion, we have seen the growth of international flights out of Avalon.
Travel might be restricted for now, but tourism, transport and freight are crucial job sources for Geelong and important to future growth.
Of course, a key factor of our future is the construction sector that government has designated an essential service.
Even with this status, everyone in the building and development game is facing challenges. And some are not faring as well as others.
Uncertainty among potential buyers, bank lending, settling contracts, planning red tape… these are just some of many factors being thrashed out daily throughout the industry.
My company, Villawood Properties, has three major projects in Geelong: Armstrong Mount Duneed, Wandana above Highton and the new Coridale at Lara West.
Civil works are proceeding on all of these – construction has just started at Coridale – and new houses are going up as well.
More than 120 jobs will be generated by the Coridale works, we have another 20 to 30 that will be created with a new Drewan Park build getting under way at Wandana.
Villawood projects generate around 1,900 jobs locally a year, contributing $300 million to the regional GDP and there are many other developers in the region too.
We also offer $20,000 price discounts, with 20 per cent of land set aside, to essential care workers ranging from health frontline nurses and paramedics to police, teachers, firefighters and personal carers.
Another way to help local jobs along is by buying Geelong-based goods and services.
Even if you are buying online, buy from a Geelong company direct on their local website.
If you can, order and pick up full meals weekly from local restaurants, as opposed to just take-away fast foods, to help our restaurants get back on their feet.
These will be generally healthier than fast foods, with less sugar and fat.
Everyone is crowding out Bunnings, so share your love – and money – by also shopping at smaller local shops that supply similar products.
Construction and services are the engine room of our local economy, and it is crucial they maintain operations as best as possible so we are well positioned for the post-coronavirus environment.
That way, this region will be able to capitalise more swiftly, more nimbly, on the many attributes we have seen in recent times transforming Geelong into a clever and creative 21st century city.
Rory Costelloe is a board member of the Geelong Authority and the Barwon Health Foundation Future Fund, and executive director of Villawood Properties.