Not unlike the mythical phoenix which arises from the ashes of its funeral pyre with renewed youth, Geelong is somewhat in the middle of a renaissance or a rebirth.
At Goop Digital we have more than 700 clients Australia wide, and for a sustained period not too long ago, whenever I was travelling for work, particularly interstate, I was constantly confronted by negative comments about our city.
“Wow, Geelong is on its knees.” “Boy, you guys are heading the same way as Detroit.” “How are you coping with the downturn in Geelong?” “Sounds bad in Geelong.”
The reality is that for those directly related to Ford or Alcoa and their demise in Geelong, it was tough. However the implications for the rest of Geelong were nowhere near the extremes the media would have had us believe. Whilst politicians need to do what they do, it would appear the political point scoring was often to the detriment of Geelong and created the perception of a downtrodden wasteland. You could almost have imagined tumbleweeds rolling down Moorabool Street to the bay. Hey, politicians, don’t let the truth get in the way of a headline! The reality was that perception and the truth were poles apart.
While the naysayers and pessimists were forecasting doom and gloom, small businesses, the backbone of Geelong’s and Australia’s economy, were busy getting on with business. Geelong was and continues to boom. Geelong has almost 25,000 small and medium businesses and the Geelong Chamber of Commerce boasts being one of the largest – if not the largest – regional business bodies in Australia. The chamber’s size and influence is a testament to the volume of businesses, small to large, flourishing in Geelong.
Building and land development
Imagine moving to Craigieburn, Caroline Springs or Pakenham. Public transport is not all that convenient in those centres and it can be just about impossible to get to Melbourne in peak hour. Perhaps the only bonus is that residents do get to live a comfortable lifestyle around the small man-made lakes.
However, when you move to Geelong suburbs Armstrong Creek or Warralily you are literally 15 minutes from the heart of Geelong, 10 minutes from lying on the beach at Jan Juc or a dozen other of the world’s best and most beautiful beaches and an hour from Melbourne’s CBD. Ongoing improvements to train services to Melbourne mean public transport is a viable and appealing option and, once the tunnel is completed, our West Gate journey will be somewhat more palatable in peak hour. And we haven’t touched on the growth in Lara and Little River.
The Transport Accident Commission (TAC), NDIS and WorkCover have all moved to Geelong in recent times, providing a huge and sustained boost to the local economy. Peak hour on the Princes Highway is now clearly a two-way flow and many small businesses thrive of the back of these large organisations, which are also driving the re-establishment of a commercial and viable CBD.
If you are tradie in Geelong without work then you aren’t a tradie. At Goop Digital we work with dozens of tradies and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say our clients “don’t have time to scratch themselves” as they try to keep up with work on the proliferation of new housing estates in and around Geelong. Sure, the influx of government workers into Geelong is a shot in the arm for the city’s housing market but the arrival of public servants is only part of the story. Those seeking a seachange and a relocation from Melbourne to Geelong for a “Gee-change” are also contributing to the remarkable story of Geelong.
All of this without touching on the story of tourism, education, health and local government, and not to mention the success of our rags-to-riches behemoth called Cotton On.
Opportunity hasn’t just knocked in Geelong – it’s pretty much slapped us in the face. Wineries, accommodation, dining, group tours and car hire are just the tip of the tourism industry iceberg. The commencement of AirAsia flying international flights in and out of Avalon Airport is another game changer for ever-evolving Greater Geelong and surrounds. Our local businesses are here to get on board and support the influx of visitors. The potential here for local business is not to be underestimated. Many of our tourism-related clients such as Scene-A-Roo and the Beachfront Motel at Apollo Bay already have Google translate on their websites in anticipation of visits from our Asian neighbours.
The work of Justin Giddings at Avalon and Tony Fernandes from AirAsia X cannot be underestimated. Geelong and Victoria’s entire south-west region need to get on board – literally – and show our support.
Thinking of an Asian holiday? You know where to start: Geelong!