The Victorian government has opened a new $7.5 million fund in an effort to diversify the Portland economy and expand local worker housing.
The fund, which opened for submissions on Monday, forms part of the $17.4 million Portland Economic Diversification Plan.
The scheme to diversify the local business landscape was established after the Alcoa smelting plant ran into trouble in 2019, revealing the troubling overreliance of Portland's economy on the aluminium smelter.
The new fund will provide $6.5 million for individual grants of up to $500,000, and will be available to businesses and other organisations for projects that broaden Portland's economic offerings.
Projects involving tourism, renewable energy, manufacturing and transport have been encouraged, with the state government emphasising the importance of creating sustainable, long-term jobs.
The remaining $1 million of the fund will go towards fixing the critical worker housing shortage that is preventing Portland businesses from finding qualified staff.
Minister for Regional Development Mary-Anne Thomas said it was difficult to diversify Portland's economy unless the housing situation was also addressed.
"We understand housing is a major barrier to growing the economy in this community, which is why we're fast tracking solutions to create more housing and attract more workers to Portland," she said.
The fund was developed in collaboration with local businesses and Glenelg Shire Council, with a council spokeswoman saying council would itself consider applying for the grants.
Applications will be open until 2024, or when the fund is exhausted.
The diversification plan has already started investing $7.3 million to upgrade road infrastructure in and around Portland so it can stand up to the wear and tear of heavy freight vehicles.
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