‘It’s a bargain’: Melbourne’s pitch to entice businesses to settle locally

Compared to Brisbane, Armstrong claims Melbourne is slightly cheaper but dismisses the Queensland capital as “a big rural city” where “if you want access to talent, you really only have one university”.

Armstrong spent 14 years with Coles before working for the state government in a variety of positions, including Invest Victoria and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

While overseas cities like Singapore can offer “all kinds of incentives”, Armstrong says Melbourne can win businesses over on livability and a broader package targeting families. But the one thing Melbourne can’t compete with, Armstrong says, is the appeal of Sydney Harbour.

Peter Armstrong’s pitch for Melbourne is based on his lifestyle and affordability. Credit:Jason South

“Some companies are run by sailors and they just want to be there,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense, if you come to Melbourne you would save $30,000 per job, but they want to sail in Sydney. I could name five companies that way.”

The establishment of Invest Melbourne in December last year makes Melbourne the only Australian city to have an Investment Promotion Agency (IPA). There are about 3000 such agencies around the world and Armstrong points to Toronto, Montreal and London as other international cities with established offices.

The agencies are competing for “footloose” investment with an estimated $1.6 trillion ($2.28 trillion) a year in FDI available worldwide, though this has been reduced by a third during the pandemic.

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“There are 3,000 agencies chasing two-thirds of the dollars,” Armstrong says. “Whether it’s me or my colleagues in the state or Austrade, now is a time when you have to fight vigorously for that investment.”

Armstrong insists Invest Melbourne’s role will not duplicate the work Invest Victoria and Austrade are already doing.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here,” he says. “It’s all about targeted actions.”

An Invest Victoria spokesperson says it is working with all levels of government to facilitate investment opportunities.

“We have a great relationship with Invest Melbourne and work in a complementary way to achieve our common goal of attracting new investments,” said the spokesperson.

Investment promotion agencies offer six services: market access and business case validation, supplier, advisor and potential client introductions, location analysis, government approvals, project management and financial support.

Financial aid is where Invest Melbourne falls short.

“We’re big on the first five,” Armstrong says. “The government has enough money and so does Austrade.”

Armstrong says Invest Melbourne’s success can be measured by the number of new jobs being created and investment in its headquarters, but he says much of this will go unseen.

Mayor Sally Capp says Invest Melbourne is still in its start-up phase.

Mayor Sally Capp says Invest Melbourne is still in its start-up phase.Credit:Wayne Taylor

“Good investment promotion agencies, there’s a part of their work that never sees the light of day because you’re running things in the background,” he says.

“We’ve worked with some great developers I’ve worked with before, fixed some of their issues so their project can move forward, and we’ve done some wonderful things in Bourke Street and some of the other landmark properties we’re working on.” .”

While Armstrong says Invest Melbourne wants to be “as nimble and as fast as possible” to speed up processes for businesses, the agency will have to do so from within Melbourne City’s bureaucracy. It took 15 interview requests over a four-month period for: The age to secure an interview with Armstrong.

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Melbourne City staff attributed the delay to Invest Melbourne, which sat between the mayor’s office and the office of council chairman Justin Hanney.

Mayor Sally Capp says Invest Melbourne is still in the “set-up phase” and working on appointing an advisory board.

“A key part of what Invest Melbourne will be is concierge, accelerate, facilitate, poke and prod and push and really be part of the slipstream where we see that investment and that talent flourish,” she says.

Capp says Invest Melbourne allows the council to locate efforts to attract investment.

“Part of Invest Melbourne realizes that there are already many organizations, including other levels of government, that are also working towards the same goal.”

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