Shaping our city

Supporting our businesses: the backbone of the city

16 August 2023

Meet your City of Melbourne councillors
Councillor Kevin Louey

After 22 years of involvement with City of Melbourne, Councillor Kevin Louey is well-placed to talk about its business community – and the importance of supporting local traders. 

“Business is the backbone of the city,” he said. “Melbourne is a gateway not just to the rest of Victoria but also for the southern states. If the city is not charged up, alive with activities and full of pizzazz why would people come here? Melbourne is the events capital. We’re good at it. We have  a great team here that manages events and we have partnerships with the State Government which we get good value from.” 

Cr Louey heads up council’s business and global opportunities portfolio, with decades of experience in strengthening international connections. He is Melbourne’s representative on the Business Partner Cities (BPC) network, in which member cities exchange knowledge about economic development and promote international business. In November Melbourne will host the BPC meeting. 

Having attended the most recent BPC meeting in Manila, Cr Louey said: “The other city representatives wanted to know about our recovery from Covid, how our inbound tourism is going, what are we doing that they can learn from and what can we learn from them? 

“I tell them about our major events, our whole calendar of sporting events, our great food. They see that this is a well-rounded and mature city and a city that embraces people of all nationalities. We have three historic precincts arising from our migrants, the Greek, Chinese and Italian precincts, all within walking distance of each other.” 

With a new international engagement framework, these will be reinforced by business delegations led by City of Melbourne councillors and subject experts. 

“It’s about generating opportunities where Melbourne businesses can engage with other businesses from around our region,” Cr Louey said.  

He is also enthusiastic about the potential for ongoing connections with international students. This year they returned to Melbourne in big numbers after international borders re-opened. 

“Our international students are great ambassadors,” he said. “They come here and live and study for three or four years and when they go home they really talk up Melbourne. I would like to see us connect even more with the alumni communities. They are so enthusiastic about Melbourne.”

Before being elected to council, Cr Louey spent eight years as chief of staff to former lord mayor John So. He credits this period with giving him practical experience and many contacts in Melbourne’s community. 

“People call me with queries about a wide range of issues, it could be a problem with egress, a signage issue. I’m happy to take calls and emails and explain things to people when they have queries. I’m available and accessible. 

“The council officers are passionate and enthusiastic about engaging our businesses and residents. This avoids simple issues escalating even further.” 

Looking back over several decades, he says he’s proud to be part of a council that’s helped shape the city’s growth.

“Postcode 3000 was a great start, now we’re a residential population of close to 165,000. Our spending on capital works is much bigger, we provide as much public infrastructure as we can. There has been an increase in pedestrian numbers and we’ve widened the footpaths. The closing of Swanston Street to traffic did work. There was a big debate about this many years ago but now it’s a real plus.”

On his list of things still to do, business support is a top priority. We now produce a regular Melbourne Economy Snapshot to give businesses the information they need to adapt as the city changes. 

Cr Louey points to the Melbourne City Revitalisation Fund, a partnership with the Victorian Government; and initiatives such as the multi-million dollar Melbourne Money dining rebate (now closed) as effective ways of boosting the local economy. 

“The City of Melbourne works well with other levels of government. We do get support and funding and it all benefits the city.” 

He acknowledges some impacts of the lockdowns linger on.

“We don’t have everyone back five days a week and it’s unlikely we will. So businesses, particularly the lunch and coffee trade, have now needed to pivot to a new model of doing business .”  

Recognising the current gap between the daytime and night-time economies, council will establish a new City Economy Advisory Committee. This aims to capitalise on our city’s night-time successes – encouraging locals and visitors to make a full day and night of it in the city. 

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