Geelong: The next Silicon Valley?

1 Posted by - 14/10/2015 - Opinion

By Alex Bishop

  • Boral 2013 – 100 Jobs
  • Target 2013/14 – 260 Jobs
  • Alcoa 2014 – 800 Jobs
  • Qantas 2014 – 300 Jobs
  • LinenCare 2015 – 94 Jobs
  • Ford 2016 – 600 Jobs
  • Shell n/d – 450 Potential Job Losses

Over a 3-5 year period there have been no fewer than 2604 job losses planned or carried out in the greater Geelong area. These losses are not cyclical; they are permanent losses that considering the current political and economic climates are not being replaced with any great gusto. Unfortunately for the people of the greater Geelong region not much is being done about the fact that more jobs are being lost.

So, what do we do about the greater Geelong region, the government coud just leave it alone and allow the free market to work its wonders with an attitude of whatever will be, will be

I however, suggest that what is needed in order to fix the issues is a concerted effort across local, state and federal governments along with strong links to the private sector. The Silicon Valley model would almost be the archetype. I believe that through strong investment both state and federal governments can foster an environment in the greater Geelong region. I propose that through the use of a HECS like system governments should provide tax breaks and subsidies to tech and bio-med companies willing to move to the region.

My proposal would involve significant infrastructure capital investment coupled with economic subsidies through retraining benefits and tax breaks.  

  1. The provision of proper high speed internet through the region, not necessarily a national program, as the NBN should’ve been but a regional service to allow the companies to connect properly throughout the world. As Kanye West said to Zane Lowe in 2013, we had an idea that the future would be the sky, everything in the future was in the sky, flying cars etc. but we never got it, instead we’ve got the Internet, that’s our future sky.
  2. A proper high speed rail link between Melbourne and Geelong, in the mould of the Eurostar service with trains travelling at up to 300km/h. A 300-km/h service would cover the Melbourne – Geelong distance in 15 minutes. My proposal would allow for companies taking advantage of this to qualify for subsidised rail transport. The service would also reduce road congestion preventing the need to build additional roads while being more environmentally friendly and cost effective.
  3. Payroll tax cuts, company tax cuts and income tax cuts would also be used to incentivize business to relocate to the region. In San Francisco biotech companies are exempt from payroll tax for 7 ½ years. According to the city Controller’s Office the exemption reduced taxes by $963,396 between 2004 and 2008. However, although not solely attainable to the payroll tax exemption, life science jobs in San Francisco have risen 550% in the same period. The revenue gains from the development of the industry have greatly exceeded the cost of the exemption to the city.

So, how would the respective governments finance these incentives?

I propose a HECS system for the tax cuts, whereby after either a period of 7 years or more, or once a level of profit has been consistently achieved the tax cuts and subsidies would be slowly wound back, allowing the company to pay more tax, and repay the governments for the breaks they were given. The infrastructure, financed through borrowing would remain state owned, providing a revenue source. The increase of people to the region would lead to greater wealth and prosperity for the greater Geelong region. Also, the added benefit of people moving from Melbourne would reduce the stress on the city’s road and rail networks and reduce the speed of urban sprawl.

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