The upheaval came when the area’s major employer, the Forrest sawmill, closed and people left to find jobs elsewhere. Then the local pub burnt down. For a small country town, this combination was about as bad as things could get.
With the supporting expertise of Regional Development Victoria (RDV), The Victorian Government started the resuscitation process by investing in mountain bike trails – changing the town from a drive through to a destination. Aspiring brewer, Matt Bradshaw, and his sister Sharon recognised an opportunity. They bought the derelict service station in the main street and the Forrest Brewing Company was born.
Sharon and Matt knew they would get strong support from RDV. “We’ve had a long-term relationship with RDV,” Sharon said. Before we even moved to Forrest, we went into the RDV office in Geelong and they were enthusiastic to be involved.”
RDV helped secure initial funding through the Federal Government, which got the business going and enabled Sharon and Matt to develop a feasibility study for the expansion.
“RDV were fantastic. They have always made sure we were aware of all the different funding opportunities and even made sure our applications were as compelling as possible.”
Sharon and Matt got their biggest break when they received support through the Victorian Government’s Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund in the form of a $1.49 million contribution towards the company’s forthcoming $7 million relocation and expansion project.
The new facility will feature a larger hospitality space, additional conference and function areas and 20 eco-accommodation units. Victorian Government support is secured for the first stage, which involves building the larger brewing facility.
Construction will start in 2019 and by 2020 the old sawmill site will once again become Forrest’s biggest employer.
“The building will give us greater output capacity so we can extend our distribution network nationwide,” Sharon said.
“We’ll be adding 15 new full time equivalent jobs so the local economy will benefit too,” Sharon said.
“It’s a brilliant result for everyone.”