Local businesses to benefit

FIVE businesses in the Wellington Shire will benefit from the federal government’s $20 million spend on industry and business in Gippsland, which will create almost 260 positions locally.

Australian Sustainable Hardwoods in Heyfield, Bambach Wires and Cables and Fabpro Group in Rosedale, DefendTex in Dutson and Audentes Investments in Sale are all recipients of funding.

The financial boost, made available through the Regional Jobs and Investment Package, is a byproduct of the Hazelwood Power Station closure, as thew ripple effects spread across Latrobe, Baw Baw and Wellington local government areas.

Announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Gippsland MHR Darren Chester in Loy Yang on Thursday, the $20 million will be shared between 19 Gippsland organisations to invest in projects that stimulate investment and create jobs.

Mr Chester hoped the announcement that jobs would be supported would energise the community.

“The jobs and investment package provides a great opportunity for the private sector to work with government on projects that will make the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland economically stronger and more vibrant,” Mr Chester said.

DefendTex, a weapons research and development company, will receive $1.5 million to build a manufacturing and testing facility for propellants and explosives at Dutson.

The site will become the base for the company’s resonance acoustic mixing facility to support the development of rocket motors, and is expected to create 25 construction jobs and 60 ongoing positions.

The federal government has allocated $2.9 million to Bambach Wires and Cables to establish an advanced low voltage cable manufacturing facility and refurbish its existing factory in Rosedale, creating 47 construction jobs and 55 ongoing positions.

Sale’s Audentes Investments will receive $123,600 to increase the value of medium and low value wild catch seafood products.

The company will extend its processing and chilling facilities in Sale and buy specialised processing and packing equipment, creating five construction jobs and four ongoing positions.

Audentes Investment’s Lachlan McKinnon said his successful application would help his business expand, and acknowledged Wellington Shire Council’s economic development team, which helped prepare the company’s funding application.

At Australian Sustainable Hardwoods in Heyfield, the government chipped in $1.2 million towards the company’s new twin band resaw, creating 14 construction jobs and securing 40 ongoing positions at the manufacturer.

The resaw is the first in a series of investments at the site, to increase the recovery from each sawlog and manufacturing capability.

The innovative technology, fresh from Germany, improves the straightness of the boards, meaning ASH will be able to recover an additional 10 per cent for each log that is processed, and create 10 per cent less sawdust.

After ASH failed to secure a viable timber supply from VicForests and announced it would therefore need to downsize its workforce last year, being able to secure 40 existing jobs is welcome news for the Heyfield community.

ASH chief executive Vince Hurley said the jobs would come from increased manufacturing operations, as more timber would come through the system downstream.

“We need to get more from less logs,” he said.

Mr Hurley was particularly grateful to receive funding, as he believed the application process to be extremely competitive.

In keeping with the government’s condition that the businesses are to action their plans within the next six weeks, ASH intends to put deposits on the equipment and prepare the existing building where the technology will be housed.

Steel fabricator Fabpro Group intends to use its $100,000 boost to build a cordless factory in Rosedale — an ingenious approach to environmentally-friendly industry.

Operations at the factory will be off-grid, using solar power and modular battery storage.

The factory will be a prototype for other likeminded businesses on the current industrial estate in Rosedale, and possibly in other areas of Gippsland in the future.

The site, already secured, is intended holistically to be a greener approach to industry, with tree planting and water catchment areas.

Fabpro director Dale Brown said the idea behind the eco-industrial hub was to support the local farming community — his main customers, who were often priced out of the market by larger fabricators.

“[Sustainability] is the way of the future, we can’t keep doing what we’re doing — we’re destroying ourselves,” he said.

Mr Brown hoped the Rosedale site would be up and running by the end of the year, creating two construction jobs and employing an additional seven people over three years.

Wellington Shire Council’s economic development team was involved in facilitating the successful applications by providing economic data.

Mayor Carolyn Crossley congratulated the businesses, and said it was fantastic news for the economic development of the community.

“For our communities to thrive, not just survive, we need to ensure that we position ourselves for good quality, long term jobs that broaden or industry base and embrace new technologies within our existing industries. These successful grants do just that,” she said.

“Wellington is a fantastic place to run a business and we are finding more are identifying Wellington’s many attributes and not only starting new businesses here, but also relocating existing ones.”