Collie determined to make manufacturing part of its future

A coal-mining and power generating town in south-west Western Australia is looking to manufacturing to brighten its future. Manufacturers’ Monthly reports.

THE south-west of Western Australia is known for its natural beauty and enviable lifestyle opportunities. The dense deposits of natural resources, such as coal, along with the power stations located in the south-west town of Collie mean the same picturesque region also powers the state. Now, Collie is opening its doors to new industry – and there are millions of dollars in funding incentives being offered to start-ups, businesses and companies to set
up in town.

With Collie on the search for new industries, the Western Australian Government has created the Collie Futures Fund to encourage manufacturers to make the move to this part of the country.

The first part of this fund, the Collie Futures Industry Development Fund, offers up to $2 million per industry-led project out of a pool of $18 million in funding. The second, the Collie Futures Small Grants Program, provides seed funding for job-creating, economy-boosting projects of up to $100,000.

Both funding sources are ideal for manufacturers who are seeking to set up a base of operations in Western Australia, Member for Collie-Preston, Mick Murray said.

“We’re looking for something that’s pretty solid and has a long- term future,” said Murray.

One of the requirements for the Industry Development Fund is for applications to  demonstrate matched funding from the proponent or other sources.

In addition to the funding on offer, Collie offers a developed base from which to build a manufacturing operation. The legacy of the coal- mining and power-generating region means that there is already infrastructure in place that can be adapted to the requirements
of manufacturers.

The Collie Power Station, Muja Power Station and Bluewaters Power Station are all located within the immediate vicinity. The roads, rail lines and nearby port in Bunbury offer easy access to markets for products and smooth supply lines.

Importantly, manufacturers who require consistent and reliable power for energy-intensive projects are well-supported here.

“Collie’s been the centre of energy production for about 100 years, so we do have the infrastructure already in place, the heavy voltage, the lines and so on,” said Murray.

Murray encourages potential enterprises to see the region’s existing economy as the foundation for any number of manufacturing processes.

“We’ve had people out, looking for contacts with the iron ore industry and smelting. We do have a large aluminium base in the south-west, so minerals do not have to be transported far to value-add,” said Murray.

Adding to the potential of Collie and the south-west region is the human capital based there. According to Murray, there is a base of employable individuals, whose skills and education make them ready to jump into manufacturing plants and processes.

“There’s about 3,000 workers there already and we’d like to make sure that they’ve got a future,” said Murray.

Those businesses wishing to make use of the twin Collie Futures Fund are encouraged to utilise the local workforce in building their presence in the region.

The south-west region is known for its natural beauty and active lifestyle, with water-skiing on the natural and man-made lakes in the region popular for locals and visitors. Funding has gone towards creating a network of trails for bushwalking and mountain biking. These qualities further enhance the attractiveness of the region, even for those who live outside of the immediate area, according to Murray.

“With the job downturn across the state, there’s plenty of people around the state that would locate here if the jobs were here,” said Murray.

Having lived in the area since he was a child, and represented the region since 2001, Murray is a fierce advocate for the region, and one that knows its assets well.

“It’s a pretty good place to live, the south-west of Western Australia. It is close to beaches, close to surfing and fishing, and very peaceful and a bit laid back,” said Murray.

Murray sums up the region’s attitude to manufacturing’s future in Collie.

“We’re open for business,” he said.