New path essential

It has been a constant back-and-forth for many years between good times and bad times.

The most recent period has been the anxious wait as to whether government will dip into the public purse to find more money to keep things going.

Textile and clothing manufacturing has long had a strong presence in Wangaratta, in particular Australian Textile Mills.

It was certainly an industry worth supporting, given its strong role in employing people in the North East city and in the income it generated.

But textile and clothing manufacturing, as a whole, has been in decline now for many years.

So many of our most well-known brands – everything from Bonds to Country Road – have their wares designed locally but manufactured overseas where labor costs are so much lower. It was inevitable then that the business future for Wangaratta was going to look quite different if its business and civic leaders were willing to take an innovative approach to the area’s potential.

Out of that has come the draft 2017 Wangaratta Industrial Land Use Strategy, due to be presented on Tuesday to the city’s councillors.

An especially noteworthy conclusion of this report is this shift in focus – from textile and clothing manufacturing to food production and timber.

That does not mean the sector will be completely sidelined – only a couple of years ago  Wilson Fabrics revealed a $1.5 million deal to ship products to the US, Europe and the Middle East.

But the report does make clear that overall the industry was “quite small” in the town and that there needed to be consideration to future possible uses of sites such as the Australian Textile Mills’ home in Sisely Avenue.

The timeline for this change in focus is put down to the next five years, so it is sensible that planning for such a move is being undertaken now.

The land use strategy points out how food production “has a more positive outlook for the city, with animal  products, beverages, timber and related supporting services having potential for further growth”.

This fits in with recent comments by Ovens Murray Regional Partnership’s Irene Grant, who in promoting the 2017 Ovens Murray Regional Assembly in Wodonga on July 27 pointed to the tremendous potential for agribusiness.