March 5, 2013

No-one likes a 'bludger' and to be called a 'bludger' is to suggest that the individual doesn't do his or her fair share of work.

When it comes to regional communities like East Gippsland, we need everyone to make a contribution if our region is going to prosper in the future.

To create new jobs, develop improved infrastructure and build a stronger and more resilient regional economy we need to build on our traditional strengths while developing more opportunities in emerging industries like tourism.

It's a task for all levels of government, all community-minded citizens and all businesses which seek to earn profits and generate wealth in our region. Supporting local businesses and stimulating growth in our region is the only way to give young people the option of pursuing careers in their hometowns.

Many people are putting an enormous amount of time, effort and money into activities to promote our region and encourage further investment and growth in areas such as tourism.

Individual business owners are donating their time and making financial contributions to collective marketing efforts to build our brand and increase visitor numbers which has a flow on benefit for everyone.

When tourism prospers in East Gippsland, everyone benefits. Local tradesmen pick up extra work, the petrol station and bait outlets sell more of their products, the restaurants and shops are busy and jobs are created. It's a constant challenge to build our brand reputation as a tourism destination in an increasingly competitive world market.

But by working together with East Gippsland Shire and the local marketing group, we have made progress over the past few years and there are some promising initiatives underway.

It's not all good news. The major corporations - including the banks and supermarket giants - are happy to take profits out of our region but they contribute very little to the efforts to build economic prosperity.

While many of their staff members are great contributors to regional life in a wide array of pursuits, the corporate bosses in Melbourne and Sydney don't accept that they have a responsibility to do their share of work that is required to help East Gippsland prosper.

The corporate bosses and their shareholders benefit from every visitor or every person who decides to buy a business or retire in East Gippsland but they don't reinvest in our community like so many small business owners are doing.

I've met with many of these big organisations over the past five years and warned them repeatedly that they are not doing enough to support the regional communities where they do business.

They can't just keep taking our money and not making a meaningful contribution to help our region prosper.

There's a word for that.

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