Myrtleford bounces back

Myrtleford has significantly fewer unemployed people than other parts of regional Victoria and several businesses in the town are experiencing the best sales figures in many years.

Recent employment data released by Department Education Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) for June 2009 reveal overall unemployment in Alpine Shire down from 4.1% (March 2009) to 3.6% for the June 2009 quarter. Particularly West Alpine (encompassing Myrtleford) dropped from 4.2% for March 2009 to 3.5% for the June 2009 quarter.

At the same time, regional Victoria had an unemployment rate of 5.2% while Victoria's was 5.1% and Australia 5.0% for the June 2009 quarter.

Alpine Mayor, Cr Nino Mautone said in addition, the Shire has recorded an annual growth rate of almost 1%. Cr Mautone said the figures reflect what is happening in the town and are a real boost for the Myrtleford community especially after the town and surrounding areas were significantly affected by bushfires in February 2009.

"The mood in Myrtleford is now quite upbeat and this data tells part of the story of the growing confidence in the town. Many organisations and government departments supported the area with advertising campaigns after the fires, asking people to come back and spend and this has had a measurable affect," Cr Mautone said.

Frank Ivone, president of the Myrtleford Chamber of Commerce and owner of boutique winery Eagle Range Estate is just one business owner who has recorded a good year. Mr Ivone said his sales were significantly up on previous years.

"We have had a lot more coaches including us on their itinerary. People have also seen general advertising and have come here saying purchasing products is the best way they feel they can help support us," Mr Ivone said.

Red Ramia of Cafe Fez and Red Ramia Trading has also recorded increased sales and noted the support of the customers.

"Business is the best it has ever been. Over the past 12 months we have expanded and put on extra staff. Our customers are now coming from all over Australia with people saying they have been told they must visit us. We do a lot of advertising our self, but the regional advertising has certainly assisted in getting the message out that Myrtleford is a great place with a lot of fantastic businesses," Mr Ramia said.

One business that was devastated by the fire with the business buildings being burnt out and stock destroyed is Kaceen Ornamental Fountains Statutes and Sundials. Owner, Robyn Norris said she had added a small gift shop and sales are almost double what they were for the same period last year.

"We have placed a lot of effort into advertising to remind people we are still here and open. Our research has shown a lot of people regionally from Albury/ Wodonga have come here and from further afield. We have actively encouraged them to see everything that's on offer," Mrs Norris said.

Council is also progressing significant projects in the town and surrounds. Council is collaborating with Rural City of Wangaratta to establish the region as a key agricultural area.

Cr Mautone said as part of the Regional Foodbowl project, consultants have been engaged to develop a prospectus to assist in the marketing of the project.

"There have been visits to the region from supply chain managers of national food companies with positive signs and our visits to other regions have also been met positively. It is a long term project, but one that has the potential to create some significant returns for our region," he said.

"Council also commends the Myrtleford Chamber of Commerce for the variety of initiatives it has undertaken to promote local offerings. It is great to see new businesses opening and existing ones exceeding previous sales figures."

"In addition, renovation works have started at the Ablett Pavilion which will provide a range of opportunities for the community to use this building more broadly."

Carter Holt Harvey, the largest employer in the town, also recently announced a major investment in the Myrtleford plant with the upgrade of the plywood mill.

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