Latrobe fund may continue

The State Government fund set up specifically to help the Latrobe Valley diversify its economy has effectively run out of money.

However, Member for Morwell Russell Northe has flagged his intention to continue the arrangement in some form.

The initial $10 million Latrobe Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund was established by the former Labor Government and topped up to $15 million when the Coalition came to power.

By its completion, the fund will have helped 41 businesses, including some in the Baw Baw and Wellington shires, to expand or upgrade facilities, creating additional jobs.

Mr Northe estimates about 880 new jobs will be created through the fund.

“There are three to four other projects which are close to being finalised and announced and once that’s completed, the fund would be exhausted,” Mr North said.

“I’d like to see it continue into the future in some shape or form and I’m confident over the next few weeks we’ll be able to have more to say about that.”

On Friday he announced a recently-established Morwell call centre would be allocated $50,000 from the fund to expand jobs from 44 full-time equivalent to potentially 100 in 2015.

Spectrum Sales is a Melbourne-based business with sites across regional Victoria.

Its Morwell base at the former State Electricity Commission local headquarters building sells products over the phone.

Spectrum Sales chief executive Walter Justus said the company decided to set up in Morwell in January after positive discussions with Latrobe City Council.

“As soon as we contacted them, they actually helped with trying to find a location for us and also they were very proactive,” Mr Justus said.

“They would constantly be in touch with us.”

Former recipients of a share in the Latrobe Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund include Morwell Shop Fitters, Moe engineering firm Safetech and Narkoojee Winery in Glengarry to assist with construction of its dining facility.

Labor candidate for Morwell Jadon Mintern said a future Labor government would “continue to recognise the importance of leveraging investment in regional Victoria and from my perspective, particularly in the Latrobe Valley”.