Build the brand to steer the city

A better “brand” for Geelong and support for entrepreneurs were among the solutions suggested at last week’s forum to develop a long term jobs vision for the region.

The Skilling the Bay project is trying to secure the future of work in Geelong, and is holding community consultations throughout May and June. Last week’s community forum at The Gordon was opened by Skilling the Bay chairman and Gordon chief officer Grant Sutherland, who said the project started 18 months ago and was not a reaction to Ford announcing it would close its Geelong plant.

He said he had personally been in discussions about a strategic vision for Geelong since 2007. Geelong mayor Keith Fagg, one of the three panel members at the forum, said the region’s resilience was a source of great strength.

“Geelong has an economy with many strings to its bow – we are not a post-manufacturing economy.”

Responding to a question asking what Geelong’s brand was, panel member Nick Papps said the city needed to work out its points of difference.
“We have to really think about how we sell this great place to the world. What’s the theme for Geelong?”

A discussion paper released by Skilling the Bay reveals the city will lose about 15,000 direct and indirect manufacturing jobs this year, the service-based economy continues to grow, and the number of workers older than 65 is expected to nearly double to 20 per cent in 20 years.

Geelong’s education levels are below the Victorian benchmark for high school and bachelor degrees, and the number of degrees is also below the state average. Key issues raised by the forum’s 90 attendees included retraining existing employees, state and federal government support for new industries, providing incentives to small and medium enterprises, and raising student aspiration.