• Commercial builds slip

    COMMERCIAL building permits may have dropped $747,000 in the Rural City of Wangaratta over the past 12 months, but there are encouraging signs for the future, according to workforce sustainability officer Charles Halter.

    Permits for commercial developments have experienced a significant slip in the municipality, from $844,000 between January and March 2012 to $97,000 between January and March this year.

    And recent small business closures, citing issues such as online competition, in central Wangaratta have created some concern.

    But Mr Halter pointed to the $400,000 in industrial permits this quarter as a positive sign.

    “That could be a combination of new business, and people relocating because they are expanding, which are both encouraging signs,” he said.

    He said the rural city was “sitting on a fairly good stock of industrial land”, and this should hold the region in good stead.

    Mr Halter said Wangaratta seemed busy, and strong residential growth was another confidence-booster.

    “We’ve got confidence that we are a good town, and we’re confident we can attract people,” he said.

    “I think we’re better-placed than some of the other towns in the area.”

    Mr Halter said a number of measures were being undertaken to counter the issues surrounding commercial development in the current environment.

    He said the rural city was working closely with the training sector to ensure the local workforce had skills that were relevant to business in the area.

    “We are engaging with industry in the North East, asking them to tell us what they want,” he said.

    “I also run the regional skilled migration program, which is placing people in employment when people can’t fill a job locally.

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