Over the past month we have all experienced something that will be discussed, reviewed and analysed for generations to come. And no doubt, there are large parts of our community doing things tough. Sectors such as hospitality and tourism have seen their revenues disappear overnight.

From an economic sense, young people and casual workers have been disproportionally affected. Charities and philanthropic groups – those who have traditionally provided a lifeline to people – are also dealing with large drops in support. Donations and the ability to fundraise have dried up as revenue streams and legions of volunteers who were mostly older people have been forced to isolate.

After multiple discussions with local stakeholders, the Committee for Geelong has shared some ideas for collaborative action – both on a social and economic level – with a view to coordinating resources and creating collective impact.

Areas for action focused on:

  • Coordinating efforts for social impact including processes for registering volunteers in a systematic way and ensuring access to food supplies;
  • Advocating for construction works that can continue including asset maintenance works and identifying opportunities to support proposed and future projects that will generate employment and investment in the region;
  • Reviewing the role of manufacturing and agriculture with a view to securing vital supply chains;
  • Preparing our offer for the fierce competition to come in domestic tourism. Significant work has already been completed on Geelong’s identity and ‘brand’. This work needs to be finalised and ready for launch.

According to McKinsey & Company the threat of COVID-19 to lives and livelihoods will fully resolve only when enough people are immune to the disease to blunt transmission, either from a vaccine or direct exposure.

“Until then, governments that want to restart their economies must have public-health systems that are strong enough to detect and respond to cases. Leaders should recognize that regions may differ significantly in their readiness to restart their economies. The first and most obvious factor in determining readiness is the number of new cases in a given area… Case numbers and, more importantly, hospitalizations need to be low enough for a health system to manage individually rather than through mass measures…With an understanding of each region’s economic structure, governments can quickly identify places where the economy can be restarted.” (How to restart national economies during the coronavirus crisis, April 2020 McKinsey & Company)

Fortunately, Geelong is currently ‘bending the curve’ with low or no new COVID-19 cases each day. On this basis, the words of McKinsey & Company imply that Geelong may be a good candidate for government to consider a nuanced approach to an economic re-boot.

The development and construction sector provide a critical economic stimulus to our local economy. According to Geelong Fast Facts (City of Greater Geelong, 2019), the construction industry provides 10 percent of the jobs in the region and 10 percent of economic value-add. 

The Committee for Geelong recently held a Development Forum via Zoom. Members shared thoughts on:

  • Investment-ready projects for a pipeline of local works over the next 6-12 months.
  • Identification of key constraints facing these projects and how the planning system can be adapted to provide flexibility for business operations and investment.
  • Developing a collective response on how government can support strategic development & construction projects including potential policy and legislative changes.

Construction and development is continuing in Victoria. As McKinsey & Company suggests, there might be even more we can do as we see encouraging signs in managing COVID-19 while supporting our health care system. Geelong needs to work together to position itself for a re-boot of the economy – in whatever form or timeframe that takes.

Jennifer Cromarty, CEO
Committee for Geelong

image courtesy of Ravi Roshan