A forum was held at the Grafton TAFE campus last week, which allowed Clarence Valley businesses the opportunity to hear from the three consortia competing for the contract to design, build and operate the new Grafton Correctional Centre.
When built, the facility will accommodate up to 1700 beds and will deliver hundreds of jobs to the region. It has been said that the project will create long term economic opportunities locally through the procurement of a range of goods and services.
Representatives from the three short-listed applicants; GEO Consortium, Greater Futures Partnership and Northern Pathways Partnership, were given the opportunity to address local businesses.
Infrastructure NSW is the state government’s delivery agency for the correctional centre project.
Construction and project director Greg Lake welcomed the many business representatives from around the Clarence Valley and said that the forum would help show those attending what opportunities are there.
“There are two things that I would encourage local businesses to think about,” said Mr Lake.
“The first is there are going to be some businesses that provide direct services to the correctional centre.
“Those businesses will have direct contracts with those operators or builders and they’ll benefit in that obvious way.
“But the reality is there are also going to be hundreds of people who are either already here or who move into town permanently, who work at the facility and are on relatively good incomes, and spend that money at local businesses in the community.
“So if you think about the example of, say, a cafe in town or a take-away shop, it’s very hard for a take away shop to provide services to a prison, but all of the staff who are going to be working out there and on good incomes are going to come and buy take-away.
“So their business will benefit even if they don’t have a direct relationship and that’s the kind of flow-on effect which we can’t capture but we know will happen.
“The bigger benefits are the flow-through benefits in town.
“The other thing is those people in town who are looking for good career opportunities that give them stable and strong income for a long time … this is an absolute win for them because it’s a long term industry for Grafton.
“It’s an industry that, because of the shift work arrangements, a lot of the staff will live very close (by).
“For those who want to work in the prison, there will be plenty of opportunities.
“The state government wants (the winning bidder) to be a part of this community, so it’s in their best interest to build a good relationship and be honest about what they are going to do or not do, and actually try and work with local businesses.
“They will be listening a lot to what this community wants from them.
“During questions put to consortia by the local businesses at this forum, these guys will learn what this community actually wants.
“Whoever wins this thing, I want them to have listened very deeply to what it is that Grafton needs and wants.”
Grafton Chamber of Commerce vice-president Des Harvey, who attended the forum, was excited about the opportunities that will be available for Clarence Valley businesses.
“This is one of the greatest opportunities for employment (in the future) for Grafton and the Clarence Valley,” said Mr Harvey.
“There is a positive vibe and we’ve had positive comment.
“The next few years, there’s going to be a new start, a re-birth for Grafton.
“We’re going to see so much happen from the construction phase of the gaol and the benefit from the new highway and then the opening of the gaol, these are exciting times indeed.”