$4 million Geelong productivity fund on the table

The Victorian coalition government is urging the federal government to back its commitment of $4 million for a new program to support investment in the Geelong region.

Minister for manufacturing, exports and trade, Richard Dalla-Riva, said his government has committed the sum to help attract new industry, and to support existing industry to find new market opportunities.

He is urging the federal government to also support the program, claiming investment is imperative for the future of manufacturing in the region.

"This fund acknowledges the challenges facing the manufacturing sector in the region, given recent announcements relating to the operations of Alcoa, Ford and Qantas at Avalon," Dalla-Riva said.

"It is above and beyond a substantial financial contribution the Victorian Government is also making, along with the Commonwealth, to help secure Alcoa's operations at Point Henry.”

The minister says the $4 million fund will help promote new investment and jobs for the Geelong region, and provide existing industry in the manufacturing supply chain with support to develop new products and identify and capture new markets.

"We believe the Commonwealth should also be supporting this program with previous joint initiatives proving successful in the past,” he said.

"The program we are proposing is modelled on the original Geelong Industry Innovation Fund (GIIF), which was a program funded by the Howard Government and the Bracks Government.

"In this instance, however, the Gillard Government is yet to match the Victorian Government's funding commitment. The Victorian Government has expressed to Federal Industry Minister, Greg Combet, that a Commonwealth commitment would enable this program to have a greater impact on the Geelong region.”

Last year, the Gillard Government made a $20 million commitment to the Illawarra region in NSW after a restructuring announced by Bluescope Steel. Dalla-Riva is urging the government to make a similar commitment to Geelong.

The Geelong area has fallen on hard times this year, with almost 1,000 jobs on the cutting block at Alcoa’s Geelong aluminium smelter due to the high Australian dollar, input costs and low metal prices.

Ford Australia will also terminate 440 manufacturing jobs by the end of the year, with half reportedly coming from Geelong, due to reduced demand for the locally-built Falcon.