This report draws on the experiences of comparable cities in Europe and the United States of America to guide the transformation of the Geelong economy. While focusing on Geelong, the project underscores the need for greater policy and planning attention to be given to second cities in Australia, as international experience provides examples of significant economic and social development as a result.

This report presents the findings and recommendations from the Committee for Geelong’s 2016 international study tour of second cities. The purpose of the project is to draw on insights from the economic transformation of cities comparable to Geelong, and to provide recommendations for Geelong’s social and economic development. The project insights focus on governance frameworks, vision and strategy implementation, economic development approach and how the diverse economic needs have been addressed within communities. This report has three sections: a review of second city research and literature and an overview of the development of Geelong; the study tour findings; and  finally recommendations resulting from the project.

This report reviewing the literature on second cities, was prepared by the UN Global Compact - Cities Programme and RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research. The research elements of the study tour were undertaken in accordance with RMIT University’s regulations in relation to the ethical conduct of research as approved by the College of Design and Social Context Human Research Ethics Committee.

In Australia, the Federal Government has infrequently developed policies or initiatives directly aimed at the development of the country’s second cities. The Federal Government has occasionally provided funding for projects in second cities, such as the Regional Development Australia Fund and the City Deals proposed in the 2016 Smart Cities Plan , but these included second cities within a regional frame rather than concentrating on the issues and opportunities that they offer. In Victoria, the State Government’s Plan Melbourne included directions to “rebalance the growth” (2014, p. 152) between the capital and regional areas. The Ministerial Advisory Committee reviewing Plan Melbourne has recommended that Geelong be officially designated the State’s second city and lists important  infrastructure projects to promote economic growth. While Geelong has benefited from the relocation of government agencies, Worksafe, the TAC and NDIA, it can be argued that in the past regional development policies have not resulted in significant economic transformation.

The investigation into how comparable international cities have developed into growing, successful cities following the decline of core industrial sectors comes at an important juncture for Geelong. The cities included in the study tour have seen large major companies leave their cities, but have transformed their economies through co-ordinated and long-term strategies for industry development. The report provides insights into the experiences of comparable cities that it is hoped will assist Geelong to develop a program of short- to medium- term actions to facilitate a similarly successful transformation in Geelong.  

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