Strategy to help boost local social enterprises

01 Mar 2017 Wangaratta Chronicle, Wangaratta VIC (General News) Merriwa Industries hopes more can see the benefits A NEW statewide strategy launched in Wangaratta hopes to offer local social enterprises greater opportunities to expand their business, employ new staff and access more markets. Jaclyn Symes (MLC, Northern Victoria) visited Merriwa Industries Park Lane Nursery on Monday to launch the governments landmark Social Enterprise Strategy. Ms Symes said Merriwa Industries a social enterprise employing people with a disability or disadvantage, through a range of businesses was one of 100 social enterprises in the region which should benefit from the strategy. She said the government is funding $5 million to help increase sector impact and innovation, build business capacity and skills, and improve market access. Immediate priorities include establishing a statewide Victorian Social Enterprise Network, sector research and economic modelling, a feasibility study for online skills development and training opportunities for social enterprises, Ms Symes said. A social procurement framework will also be developed to help open more government contracts to purchase goods and services from social enterprises to generate positive outcomes for the Victorian economy and community. Social enterprises based in the Wangaratta region do amazing work for our local communities, and they will directly benefit from the initiatives outlined in this Australian-first strategy. Merriwa Industries is a great example of how successful businesses can be while providing substantial social benefits. After an amazing 40 plus years in business, I understand Merriwas revenue has now reached over $20 million per annum a remarkable achievement. At the same time the business offers employment opportunities for around 80 people within a larger workforce of around 240 who may otherwise have been disadvan-taged in the labour market. Not only are jobs provided, which creates the greatest impacts in individuals lives, but also a range of community services can be funded that provide essential support, such as shared, supported accommodation and respite care. Merriwa Industries chief executive officer, Bart Craw-ley, said he hopes the strategy can raise public awareness about social enterprises and the benefits they deliver. We have worked hard to deliver services and products as good, if not better, than our competition, he said. In addition to being competitive, we offer social benefits back into the community. Having this recognised, and being able to be considered for more work from all levels of government would be a big boost. Ms Symes said the Wanga-ratta region is home to more than 100 social enterprises, and it also benefits from the governments $1.4 million Alga-bonyah Employment and Partnerships program, bridging the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the Goulburn-Murray region. You can access a copy of the Social Enterprise Strategy at au/social-enter-prise Social enterprises based in the Wangaratta region do amazing work for our local communities Jaclyn Symes Caption Text: GROWING AWARENESS: Jaclyn Symes (MLC, Northern Victoria) got to see first-hand the highly successful social enterprise, Park Lane Nursery, at Wangaratta on Monday. She is pictured with (from left) Merriwa Industries CEO Bart Crawley and valued staff members Adam Sylwestrzak and Bradley Howarth. PHOTO: Jeff Zeuschner Licensed by Copyright Agency. You may only copy or communicate this work with a licence