Rescue package: 470 jobs promised, 66 delivered

A $30 milllion rescue package launched in the wake of BlueScope Steel's job-cut announcement last year has so far created just 66 of the 470 jobs promised before mid-2014.

The Illawarra Region Innovation and Investment Fund formed a key plank in the government response to help the region after BlueScope's momentous decision to axe 800 employees at the Port Kembla steelworks in August last year.

Authorities this week confirmed that, seven months after the first $16.2 million in grants were awarded to a cross-section of 13 businesses, 66 jobs had been created.

A second round of grants was expected in the "near future".

"The creation of 66 jobs in just a few months is a good achievement, considering the time it can take to bed down new investment," a Federal Department of Industry and Innovation spokesman said.

"In addition to the new direct full-time equivalent jobs that are created, indirect employment in the supply chain and other service providers in the region are expected to grow, resulting in an overall significant boost to the Illawarra economy."

The government-backed aid package was created to stimulate investment and sustainable jobs. The federal government contributed $20 million, while the NSW government and BlueScope Steel gave $5 million each.

The first funding round, announced in April, included grants ranging from $217,203 to $6.05 million and was expected to generate 470 new jobs and $46.5 million of investment across Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama by June 30, 2014.

This week, however, the department spokesman confirmed one of the initial 13 recipients had had its funding offer stripped after it was unable to show its project would be completed before the deadline.

Datacom Connect's proposed $3.5 million call centre, the location of which was undecided in April, was expected to create 97 jobs.

It's $1.7 million grant would be made available in the next round.

The department would not provide a breakdown of where the new jobs had been created so far.

Ultimately, the federal government expects the innovation and investment fund to generate about 1000 jobs.

This year, critics of the $30 million package argued it fell short of what was needed to help get the region back on its feet.

South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris yesterday said the creation 66 new jobs was "a good thing".

"However, that's not nearly enough to make a substantial dent on the scale of unemployment challenges facing this region," he said.

"We expect hundreds more jobs to come on stream as per the initial indications".

A spokesman for Industry and Innovation minister Greg Combet said the investment program was "already making a contribution to [the] economic development of the region".


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