A message from Jens Goennemann

Regional residents tend to value manufacturing more than people in the capital cities and suburbs. It is the vibe you get when you drive out of town. Better than that, there’s actual data to back it up.

Last time I hit the road, I wrote about my trip from Sydney to Perth and how I learned what is in the middle of Australia. Travelling between the Nation’s geographic extremes via road certainly beats fly-in / fly-out because of what you experience.

I have learned taking the long road is quite respected, particularly when you make the effort to go to the more remote towns or communities. Listening and reflecting on views formed from a distance is enormously informative.

Our Perceptions of Australian Manufacturing report showed that in Queensland 72 per cent of people in the regions valued the industry as very important or important versus 67 per cent of people in Brisbane city/suburb residents.

In WA, it was 83 per cent versus 74 per cent. In SA, the difference was more pronounced at 94 per cent versus 76 per cent.

Besides the appreciation for manufacturing increasing as you travel further away from the metros and crisscross the country, it is just plain fun to do.

As thinly populated as regions get, every evening of my recent Sydney to Northern Territory drive I ended up sitting with fine company where many stories were shared.

I was eager to learn firsthand how our NT projects in and outside of Darwin are progressing. A recent tally showed our partnership with the Territory government on the $7.5 million Advanced Manufacturing Ecosystem Fund is on track to generate 100 hundred jobs and $35 million in revenue over three years. We have co-invested in six projects so far with more to come, and with a projected ROI of 15:1.

After a few days on the road, I visited Katherine CNC Joinery, which focusses on kitchens and wardrobes. This manufacturer is advancing through investments in design, stainless steel forming and laser cutting, and is developing robust kitchens and wet area solutions.

Then there was Steeline, which is diversifying from roofing products to offering steel solutions and processing capabilities for oil and gas, civil, defence, and other industry verticals, in collaboration with systems integrator Diverseco, Charles Darwin University, and boat and trailer maker Custom Works.

It also appears to be a great place to work. I learned from Steeline owner Tony Halikos that his company doesn’t suffer skill shortages. Similar to Air Tip based in Alice Springs, which is parlaying its success by offering manufacturing and design services for others.

These companies show the value in investing in and applying sophisticated machinery and processes unavailable in remote locations.

Our project participants’ companies and their families are deeply connected to the regions where they spend their lives and are committed to making their very special ecosystem work.

Which is why it is called the Advanced Manufacturing Ecosystem Fund.

The appreciation of manufacturing is clear in the communities around other regional projects we have supported.

There’s Geofabrics Australasia in Albury, where we have supported one collaborative project to expand the company’s recycled High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) drainage products, and another to automate and reshore production of thermally bonded geocomposites.

There’s also Zetifi in Wagga Wagga, which was awarded an AMGC Commercialisation Fund grant to bring its Zetigate solution to market enabling better connectivity for food and beverage manufacturers through a novel wireless network gateway.

Another standout is EQ Resources’ commercialisation of a world-leading imaging and sorting technology solution for tungsten recovery at the Mount Carbone Expansion Project near Cairns in Queensland.

On the way back from the NT, I thought about the difference in attitudes toward manufacturing at the places I had visited versus those back home in the ‘big smoke’.

While there is no doubt in my mind that manufacturing is at the top of the agenda nationally, it is clear that there is a deeper appreciation for manufacturing in the regions because it builds communities, provides a career path for locals, and makes regions economically resilient – a view that is just as pertinent for the Nation as it is in Narrabri, Naracoorte, or Narromine.