Third time lucky: Ipswich included in $20M jobs package

IPSWICH manufacturing has been thrown a bone with the State Government finally including the city in a regional jobs stimulus package.

On Tuesday the State Government announced the $20 million package to boost the ailing manufacturing sector in regional areas "where unemployment is higher than the state average".

It's the state government's third major jobs announcement and this time Ipswich business are in a good position to win some of the cash with the grants aimed at businesses embracing new technologies.

Manufacturing is Ipswich's biggest employer keeping about 10,700 people in a job but the industry is struggling.

Ipswich's unemployment rate has been steadily rising and is now sitting at 8.3%, up from 6.7% 12 months ago, compared to 6% across the state.

The State Government has assured Ipswich business owners they will be eligible to apply for the grants; unlike in June when Ipswich was excluded from a regional youth jobs package, despite having a youth unemployment rate of 13.4%.

For steel manufacturer Perry Evans the support is welcome although he's a little sceptical.

For 40 years JA Evans and Co steel fabricators have been running their family business out of Ipswich and before the Global Financial Crisis the company employed 55 people.

Now that's down to about 30 employees.

Owner Perry Evans said 30 years ago most of his customers were Ipswich businesses, however, today only about 15% of his work comes from within the city.

J.A Evans and Co. project manager Matt Murray and owner Perry Evans.
J.A Evans and Co. project manager Matt Murray and owner Perry Evans. Rob Williams

"We used to service the power station, places like the butter factory which are now gone," Mr Evans said.

"They were blue collar jobs and good jobs. Governments of both persuasions have shut down a lot of work in the manufacturing industry and there has been nothing to replace them."

JA Evans has embraced innovation and technology, including using a high definition plasma cutter, namely to keep down costs.

The introduction of the new piece of equipment might have cost one person their job, but it puts the company in a better position to take on more work; if the demand picks up.

"We had our best six months this year from January to June but that's slowed down now," Mr Evans said.

Mr Evans said he would be looking to apply for the state government's grants but wasn't convinced the $20 million would filter down to small businesses.

"I've seen the government announce these sorts of things before... Small business in general seems to miss out. I'll believe it when I see it."

Ipswich MP Jennifer Howard said she fought hard to ensure Ipswich didn't miss out.

"I know Ipswich is part of south-east Queensland but our unemployment rate is too high," Ms Howard said.

"I wanted to make sure we got our fair share.

"Ipswich firms are already on the way to adopting innovative technologies and processes to boost their output and that in turn leads to more jobs for local people.

"I'd like to see as many of our manufacturing companies applying for the grants."

The grants on offer, announced as part of the state government's mid-year budget review, will be between $50,000 and $2.5 million with the $20 million to be spread across two years.

The mid-year announcements also included a $200 million fund for minor infrastructure projects with Ipswich City Council in the running to land some of that cash.

Ms Howard said winning some of that funding would be of "critical importance" for Ipswich with any infrastructure or maintenance project creating much needed jobs.

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