Big factory closures ‘unlikely’ to hurt us

ALBURY-Wodonga’s economy was likely to emerge unscathed from the recent wave of national manufacturing closures, a Border business leader predicted yesterday.

Thousands of jobs will go after Alcoa announced it was closing its Point Henry smelter and two mills and Toyota decided to stop manufacturing in Australia.

Australian Industry Group regional manager Tim Farrah said the Border was lucky its economy was not heavily linked to the automotive sector.

“Manufacturing is still our strongest employer and where the bulk of our revenues are generated,” he said.

“We already know that (Lavington gearbox manufacturer) DSI Holdings has flagged it is closing and I believe that people are looking at different options as to what might be able to happen up there.

“Those staff have been very well forewarned and so they’re able to look very early to find other work.”

Murray-Riverina Business Chamber of Commerce regional manager Ben Foley said it was probably still too early to determine the “greater ramifications” of the closures on the regional economy.

“While Albury-Wodonga certainly has a large manufacturing footprint, how closely tied they are to those sectors that are having a downturn is not yet known,” he said.

Mr Foley emphasised he could only make more specific comment for the NSW side of the border.

“We do have car component manufacturers in the broader Murray-Riverina region,” he said.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to catch up with them, but at the same time I know a lot of them export as well.”

Mr Farrah said the impact of Toyota’s closure in 2017 — coupled with Ford and Holden also pulling out of Australia — would be keenly felt in other Victorian regional cities.

“Bendigo and Ballarat are a lot closer to Melbourne and still have manufacturers that directly supply Toyota, Holden and Ford,” he said.

“But we’re very fortunate, we’ve got large food manufacturers and we’re just not linked into the automotive sector.”

Mr Farrah said the extensive defence facilities in the wider region was a big advantage to the Border economy.

“You’ve got the air force base in Wagga as well as Kapooka and the big facility at Bandiana, which is terrific because there’s constant redevelopment going on there,” he said.

“Plus they’re a large employer in their own right.”

Mr Farrah said it was the same in the university and health sectors.

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