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Ballarat growing and showing it means business

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Ballarat growing and showing it means business
Victoria’s third-largest city Ballarat is also one of the fastest growing, expected to see 20 per cent population growth over the next 12 years to more than 142,000 residents.

Last week Business Events Victoria invited meeting planners, PCOs and micenet to see what’s new in Ballarat.

Among new infrastructure developments, the historic goldrush town of the 1850s has reinvented its city centre railway yards to provide a modern hospitality and business events space inside a 160-year-old bluestone building called The Goods Shed.

The venue has brought Melbourne catering company, The Atlantic Group, to town to operate The Good Shed’s tiered 240-seat Terminus Theatre, Lydiard Hall and outdoor event spaces as well as in-house dining facilities within the precinct.

And with this venue’s proximity to the railway station which provides a 90-minute train service to and from Melbourne, conference organisers can get their meetings off to a greener start by encouraging delegates to ditch the car and take the train to and from Ballarat. 

Ballarat has effectively become a dormitory region for Melbourne workers as hundreds of locals commute this way every day paying only $7 to $10 in train fare. The only complaint I heard was that it needed a very fast train, like a TGV.

Just metres away in the same rejuvenated city precinct, there stands a new Quest Ballarat Station Apartment Hotel with 77 studio, one and two bedroom suites. Although there’s no dining or meeting space, there are lounge areas on each floor that would suit small casual gatherings. There’s also a second Quest Ballarat with 53 apartments a few blocks away.

Ballarat growing and showing it means business
The Goods Shed in Ballarat from above

Ballarat is enjoying significant growth in its 20–39-year-old age group and in industry sectors including healthcare, information technology, education and training and manufacturing.

The original Ballarat University, dating back to 1870, is now Federation University with a large campus at Mt Helen that has a range of business event spaces catering for hundreds or dozens, including a commercial catering arm. Its city facilities, formerly the School of Mines, have dozens of high-tech spaces built to retain the heritage features while also incorporating the latest in learning and teaching tools.

One significant offering from Federation University is its Emerging Technologies Hub, a joint venture with IBM that includes the largest internal computer display we’ve ever seen, measuring more than 200 inches diagonally. It dwarfed their large iPad-style touchscreen device, as well as dwarfing PCO Megan Chinzani from our group when stood beside it.

Traditional meeting venues for residential conferences are available at RACV Goldfields at nearby Creswick and Mercure Ballarat, both of which offer event spaces for both small groups and hundreds of delegates.

Business Events Victoria executive officer, Adeline Keh, told micenet the organisation liked to run quarterly visits for qualified buyers to the regions so organisers could “touch, see, feel and taste all that is on offer”.

Asked about the rejuvenated railway precinct in the Ballarat CBD, Keh described it as a great addition to the city.

“It is one of the shiny new examples of regional cities that continue to reinvent themselves not just for conferences and business events but certainly for local amenities to the local economy.

“Ballarat does now lend itself to day conference delegates who may want to take the train.”

Regional business events support over 3,000 jobs a year and inject more than $475 million into Victoria’s economy.

Keh said last financial year BEV dispersed more than 230 event lead opportunities, securing 152 of those events, of which more than 15 per cent went to the Goldfields region. This year she said there had been 60 event leads generated for the Goldfields region with five events already secured specifically for Ballarat.

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