There’s no doubt that Melbourne and Victoria have borne the brunt of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, but ICN Victoria Chief Executive Officer Dianne Smith is confident about the economic future of the state.
“ICN Victoria has always been on hand to support the local economy, from project and advocacy forums to facilitating local industry engagement on government procurements,” she said.
“Our goal has been to help, highlight and support local businesses. Despite the continual lockdowns, we were asked to play an amplified role.”
Dianne joined ICN in November 2020, so her ICN experience has been marked by the global pandemic.
“There were, as you know, continual lockdowns in Victoria. At one point, I lost count of the number of lockdowns. Even though certain sectors continued operating, the significant ripple effect across the whole economy and community was profound,” she said
“Although construction and manufacturing largely continued operating, nobody was immune to the impacts of lockdowns”
In Victoria, COVID-19 recovery was headlined by the state’s $80 billion ‘Big Build’ and ongoing hospitals and schools’ renewal programs. This includes major transport projects such as the North East Link Project, Suburban Rail Loop, and the Melbourne Airport Rail link projects, as well as the Next Generation Trams rolling stock.
“None of those ongoing projects missed a beat,” Dianne said, adding that the Local Jobs First policy highlighted ICN’s pivotal role.
“We had to make sure that everyone was aware of the core role we play – industry engagement, connections, and the support services we provide government on procurement.”
“We rely on the extensive knowledge we have gathered over the 38 years we have partnered with industry and championed local capability. We also gain insights from ICN Gateway, prevailing market conditions, through our industry advisers and market responses on similar procurements,” Dianne said.
She said ICN created market awareness of project opportunities through both ICN Gateway and participation in industry briefings, which were mostly virtual over the past couple of years.
“By highlighting opportunities available to the market, we create greater visibility especially with local small to medium-sized enterprises. This step is completed both at the tendering and project delivery stages.”
“Localisation support remains a critical role our team plays both in identifying and supporting import replacement opportunities, and in the diversification of proponents’ established supply chains.
From March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, up to December 2022, ICN Victoria supported more than 3,250 projects.
“Each of these projects had significant packages under them, representing greater opportunities for local manufacturers, distributors, retailers, every part of the value chain. Our role requires us to be on the forefront of market changes and opportunities, to be advocates and informed supporters of local industry,” Dianne said.
The pandemic led to supply chain constraints, which are still at play across different sectors, which then increased the focus on sovereign capability.
“This focus was due to increased lead times and subsequent cost implications for different procurements.”
Behind the scenes ICN Victoria has been working with ICNL to link the state and national reporting systems to better capture data.
Like all businesses caught up in lockdowns, ICN Victoria had to manage the transition to working at home, as well as more online meetings and virtual tours, including an excellent virtual site tour with Hofmann Engineering at Bendigo.
“I take my hat off to the way the industry worked around it,” Dianne said, also praising the ICN team for their hard work in very difficult circumstances.
“The team was remarkably positive. They just put their heads down. They did an amazing job.”
Those who remember back to the start of the pandemic, will remember that a big indication of the seriousness of COVID-19 was the cancellation of the 2020 Victorian Grand Prix. ICN Victoria was gearing up to host an industry breakfast at the event and instead were all sent home at the 11th hour.
They are trying again two years down the track, and Dianne and the ICN Victoria team are “Looking forward to a face-to- face Formula 1 Grand Prix event coming up in April 2022”.