Mitchell Business Network

About Mitchell Business Network

Mitchell Business Network is:

  • A business-strategic body, seeking to build economic prosperity
  • A strong voice on behalf of all businesses in our region
  • A strong advocate for investment attraction and employment generation
  • A network, bringing business owners together in a social & business context

Our Vision

Mitchell Business Network is passionate about developing a thriving business and investment climate in the Mitchell and surrounding region. Its goal, quite simply, is to make our region the premier place in Victoria to live, work and invest. This vision dares to explore what we might achieve if we rise to the challenge, strive to do things better, and pool our resources in the common pursuit of business and investment excellence.

As we approach the anniversary of our incorporation (26th Sept. 2017) it is timely that we publish our analysis of the issues which will define our future. We find that Mitchell has vast, unexplored potential, which we should aspire to unlock. It can become a major star in Victoria’s economic firmament if only it will strive to be so - to better focus its efforts, to better marshal its resources and to better promote a passionate business culture.

Mitchell already has an exciting array of business, tourism, educational and agricultural assets, but these are scattered across a disparate landscape and tend to operate in micro-climates. If we can connect these scattered, sometimes stranded assets more purposefully and make them more transparent, as part of an holistic strategy to re-badge our region and give it a strong, distinctive identity, we will greatly enhance our business and investment climate, generating an exciting feedback loop for new investment and employment.

Have we let ourselves down?

Our analysis is not all positive. We find that Mitchell has let itself down - preventing more purposeful investment and development - for several reasons. Chief amongst these has been its timid voice in State and Regional affairs. Whether we are private business owners, local business promotional agencies or local Government, we need to be more assertive in advocating for and attracting contestable business and investment opportunities. More assertive action will unlock significant potential and help us compete more effectively.

Our business voice must resonate beyond our main-streets, proclaiming bold regional visions and hard-nosed, bottom-line strategies for attracting investment and employment.

Strategic Issues

Outdated Transport Infrastructure

All Mitchell towns lack efficient, service-oriented road and rail connectivity. Our rail links, in particular, are slow and technologically backward by comparison with those available in any comparable developed country. We can and must do much better. More on this aspect later.

The Hume corridor has thus been identified by our Business Network as the single, most urgent Regional Reform, if we are to unlock Mitchell’s true economic potential.

Improved transport connectivity will vastly lift access to our region and strengthen our claim to be the preferred place to live, work and visit. Improved rail access will unlock abundant economic treasures - affordable housing, rural lifestyle, investment, employment & tourism. However, reform must begin with a metropolitan fringe solution. Most cities of comparable size (Paris, Frankfurt, etc.) have long since adopted urban - peri-urban - rural transitional rail hubs feeding into rapid regional services. The Mitchell Business Network strongly advocates adoption of the elegant engineering solution proposed by the ‘Rail Futures Committee’ (www.railfutures.org.au) and encourages business and Government to urgently embrace it.

This solution proposes fluid (4 to 6 trains per hour) rail services to Seymour, with a new CBD to Airport to Wallan loop taking 30 mins. off the travel time. With minor upgrading of track on the Northern line to enable fast (130Kph) V-trains, and better connectivity from stations to town centres - including much improved bus and taxi services – this solution will change our lives. The two major political parties in this State are currently arguing about which project should proceed first – re-engineering or faster rail vehicles – but have failed to provide for either in the State budget. Mitchell Business Network holds that BOTH must occur before any productivity gains can be realised from either. It is axiomatic that delivering only one part of a necessary two-part solution is a gross failure of public policy. As politically agnostic advocates, we urge all parties to end their pugilism and embrace this urgent call to action.

Township Amenity & Presentation:

Great strides are being made in Wallan, with its new town centre project, and to a lesser extent in Seymour, where an excellent rail hub exists, and township revitalisation projects are under way. Broadford has ‘beautiful bones’, with its wide streets and juxtaposition to both the Hume Highway and Northern Rail nodes. It is the unpolished jewel in our Mitchell Crown and will shortly find its place in the sun. However, Kilmore emerges from our analysis as the town most urgently in need of substantial reform.

Despite being Victoria’s first inland town and boasting wonderful historical roots, Kilmore is a dilapidated, forgotten, orphan-town, lacking the style or grace of its comparable neighbours, with whom we compete in a finite market for investment, business services and tourism. Our competitors are those located one hour from Melbourne, like Woodend, Daylesford and Kyneton. These towns exude levels of country style and charm we must strive to emulate.

We have noted that Kilmore is blighted by dirty, deserted sites overrun with weeds, cracked buildings, a lack of footpaths and no off-street parking. More critically, Kilmore is in desperate need of tasteful accommodation – ‘B & Bs to delight’ - and stylish gastronomy - ‘restaurants to entice and excite’. The Kilmore Art Expo is a great cultural platform to build upon, and should support a Kilmore Festival, with wine, farm produce, historic attractions and other assets adding critical mass. Redressing these deficiencies to showcase Kilmore’s hidden beauty will deliver immediate economic dividends and enable Kilmore to assert its proper role as an important ‘Gateway to the Goulburn’. Unlocking this hidden social capital must be a critical plank in Mitchell Shire’s work to ignite new business hope and confidence.

Investment & Regional Development

Investment does not land on your doorstep. One needs to seek out and capture footloose capital. Just as water finds its own level, footloose capital seeks out the best return.

Mitchell Business Network calls upon local government and business to join forces in fighting for better, more targeted funding for Mitchell. Historical data on Victorian regional funding makes it clear that Mitchell Shire is the forgotten child; the economic orphan, compared to other regions. We call upon responsible Ministers and Councillors to urgently address this unconscionable funding imbalance. There are many compelling reasons for doing so:

  • Mitchell is at a strategic crossroads, searching for a new identity, as its quiet rural culture struggles to absorb a frenetic urban culture pushing up the Hume corridor.
  • It lies on the main-trunk Melbourne-Sydney highway, which ought to feed the veins and arteries of a vibrant regional economy. Instead, it languishes, like a forgotten child, in the State’s regional development and decentralisation consciousness.
  • State and Federal funding of Victorian regional economic development has consistently favoured the Geelong peninsular, Bendigo, Ballarat and, to a minor extent, Shepparton, while Mitchell remains an economic development backwater.
  • There seems to be an investment no-go zone around Seymour, driven by negative perceptions about high unemployment, drug abuse and criminality. This perception is shallow. It demeans the positive business and tourism assets which adorn it and are rapidly creating an exciting new frontier for regional investment & development.
  • Melbourne chokes on its over-burdened infrastructure. In stark contrast, our region provides a blank canvass for future prosperity, in the new age of digital connectivity.
  • The north-central region is ideally situated to become a vibrant logistical hub for Victorian commerce and industry, with attendant lifestyle attractions for new entrants.
  • Should Seymour attract one or two large, charismatic investments, (of the order of $200million or more) our economic fortunes would be dramatically transformed.

BUT …. investment attraction and winning projects for our region is a competitive process. It requires a hard-nosed business approach and an enlightened partnership between business, government and the capital markets, to make the attraction of new businesses and projects to our region irresistible to investors.

That may require sweeteners – local offers of cheap land, peppercorn commercial leases, rates and tax holidays during the formative stages of projects; the promise of planning and development approvals etc. It may require the State to invest in regional economic uplift, by subsidising, at least in the short term, cost aspects of projects with potential to generate new employment and economic impetus. And above all, it will require creative project finance.

Advocacy

Although it is just hitting its straps, your Mitchell Business Network has already achieved much, researching and advocating across a range of business issues, as follows:

  • New Educational Pathways:With local Government, Universities, Go-TAFE and other institutions, we have explored scope for building new educational pathway programs on the fundament of an emerging ‘Mitchell Educational Precinct’, built upon assets like the Seymour TAFE, St Catherine’s College, Assumption College, Kilmore International School etc.
  • Leveraging off existing Institutions: Puckapunyal is, quite simply, a large training precinct (albeit a military one). We must attract synergistic training initiatives, like a ‘Drone’ training school and other niche projects, to make Seymour a training hot spot.
  • Virtual ‘Cooperative Research’. We should aspire to attract regional R & D to Mitchell, unlocking digital age potential using virtual and artificial intelligence. The new cyber age enables us to draw from University / Industrial Research nationwide.
  • Qantas Pilot Training College: With the Mitchell & Strathbogie Shires, responsible State & Fed Government agencies etc. we have advocated for this investment to be regionally located (based upon use of the existing Mangalore airport infrastructure).
  • National Space Agency: This ambitious project was recently unveiled by the Federal Government. State and Regional Governments are rushing to make a case for locating the project in their region. Winning this project will hinge on a mix of clever investment attraction, social improvement, regional employment and geo-political factors. Use of the Fed’s existing landbank (7,000 hectares at Puckapunyal), our geographical juxtaposition to three of the biggest East Coast cities - Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne – our political neutrality of location and ability to harness all major aerospace and engineering research and development campuses by creating a Virtual ‘Aerospace Cooperative Research & Development Centre’ at Seymour or Puckapunyal, will build a strong case for locating in Mitchell.
  • Kilmore Bypass: The Mitchell Business Network has lead a public discussion about what we have dubbed the ‘Kilmore Choke’, advocating passionately for an urgent, interim solution to ease Kilmore’s traffic congestion by up-grading the Seymour to Tooboorac corridor (with alignment and gradient smoothing plus overtaking lanes). There is some prospect that the coalition may be prepared to fund a ($60K) feasibility study to establish the precise costs and benefits of this elegant, immediate solution.
  • Main Street Beautification: We have been passionate advocates of the need for immediate attention to the parlous state of our streetscapes, particularly Kilmore’s main street, which is a disgrace. On the question of the ugly, vacant (former petrol station and similar) sites which deface our main street, we have argued that the Shire has the power, under the local Government Act, to enforce redevelopment of these sites, by introducing a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ policy. The Shire has since introduced a doubling of rates for landowners who delay reasonable site redevelopment.

Get on board!

 We commend this Vision Statement and its recommendations to you and invite constructive comments. To join Mitchell Business Network and support this exciting journey, go to …

www.mitchellbusiness.com.au    or write to       PO Box 304 Kilmore Victoria 3764.

Bruce Nicholls
Chairman, Mitchell Business Network


ABOUT MBN

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CONTACTS

bhenicholls@optus.com.au
+61-3-5784 3648
PO Box 304
Kilmore, Victoria 3764 Australia

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