NEW and expanding businesses are being offered low-interest loans in a Corangamite Shire push to support the local economy.
The council has launched its first Business Infrastructure Support Fund, offering loans of up to $300,000 with the interest rate equivalent to CPI, now running around 2.5 per cent.
Mayor Chris O'Connor said business operators often faced significant challenges when they were planning to start up, expand or relocate.
"The fund aims to help local businesses invest in infrastructure," Cr O'Connor said.
"It may be the set-up required for new business or expansion, or upgrading facilities to support new process or production methods .''
More broadly, he said it could mean the difference between a business "seizing an opportunity or maintaining the status quo".
"We want to help our local businesses expand and thrive, to ensure our local industry is competitive and well placed to respond to emerging opportunities and assist industry to grow employment opportunities through new investment," Cr O'Connor said.
The shire completed an industrial land strategy last year which highlighted the areas of available land remaining, the need for different lot sizes that were suited to a range of enterprises and the need to bring additional zoned land to the market.
Cr O'Connor said there was plenty of demand for the right type of industrial land in Corangamite and the support fund would help get undeveloped land on the market.
"Agriculture is a key contributor to the shire's economy, but there are also commercial and industrial opportunities to increase output, diversify the local economic base and capitalise on new and emerging opportunities from Asia,'' he said.
Economic development manager Terry Binder said yesterday the council would consider applications based on set criteria.
This includes the number of jobs created, the level of funding contributed by the proponent and whether the idea adds value to local products.
The council plans to operate the new program as a "revolving fund", providing assistance to business over a period of time. Funds repaid by business will assist other businesses into the future.
Mr Binder said he was willing to talk to people about their ideas and how the fund operated.
Expressions of interest forms are available on the council website and close on March 31.