FORBES is only now recovering from the shock closure, 10 years ago, of the city’s biggest employer but Forbes mayor Ron Penny has faith Orange can bounce back faster.
Lachley Meats abattoir was the largest employer in Forbes when it closed down in 2003, taking with it about 300 jobs.
Cr Penny said at one point the abattoir employed 450 workers, which was about 4.5 per cent of Forbes’ population.
Electrolux employs 1.43 per cent of Orange’s workforce.
Unlike Electrolux’s closure in Orange, Forbes was given almost no notice.
“One day we’ve got an abattoir and the next day we didn’t,” Cr Penny said.
“One day people had jobs and the next day they didn’t.”
Cr Penny said shops closed and most of the 300 people who were employed at the time the abattoir closed left town because there was nowhere else for them to work.
He said the flow-on effect was devastating for the community because there were so many businesses tied up in the abattoir such as freight companies.
Unlike Geelong when the Ford factory closed and unlike the Illawarra when BlueScope Steel closed, Forbes did not receive anywhere near the same level of government support, which was about $25 million for both cities.
“We might have got a little bit here and there but nothing of substance,” Cr Penny said.
“You can’t sit around and wait for government help, if you do then you don’t deserve to be dug out of the deep end.”
The various councils over the last decade have fought tooth and nail to convince businesses to reinvest in Forbes, Cr Penny said, and only recently with Bunnings investing in the town and potentially a Spotlight has Forbes started to recover.
Cr Penny’s advice to Orange council is to seize every opportunity and, as soon as there is a whisper of a business sniffing around the area, jump on it.
“There is no easy solution but you’ve got to get your nose down and chase down everything,” he said.
According to Cr Penny, when the Forbes abattoir closed the town went from about 10,000 people to 9000 people in a few months. Census data shows the town now has 9170 people in the local government area.
The abattoir has been bought recently and will operate as a boutique abattoir employing about 200 people. Cr Penny said council was working hard with a Korean company to reinvest and build a bigger abattoir in the town.