Isis Mill celebrates 120 years
Uncertain beginnings to booming success
WHEN the Isis Central Sugar Mill first registered as a company on July 16, 1894 , there were many hurdles to overcome before a factory could be built.
Doubt over whether there was enough sugar cane in the district to warrant another mill in the district shrouded the company.
Growers had to prove they had enough land to warrant their very own mill, and the 25,000 pounds price tag required to build the factory didn’t help.
Progress from formation of the company to actually crushing cane was delayed by three long years.
And it took 25 years of self-sacrifice before the farmers owned the mill and had their title deeds returned.
Now, 120 years on from its humble beginnings, the company is celebrating what can fairly be described as their success story.
Chairman Peter Russo said it was a “big honour” to be celebrating 120 years of operation, particularly being a farmer-owned company.
“Foreign countries are buying sugar mills,” Mr Russo said.
“We’ve seen a vast myriad of change in the industry, so to speak, but yet we’ve still stayed a farmer-owned company in all that time.”
The company has survived droughts, floods and deregulation.
“Deregulation brings in its own problems, so we were out competing with another mill for sugar cane to keep the livelihood of the district going,” Mr Russo said.
And keep the district alive, they have.
“Over the 120 years we’ve employed a lot of people and we’ve been the cornerstone of the district,” he said.
“Our mill pays back its profits to our shareholders which are our growers, and we would have paid countless millions of dollars into the district.”
Chief executive officer John Gorringe echoed Mr Russo’s sentiments.
“We are a hundred million dollar business... It’s not just a little bush company, but it’s still owned by the 220-odd growers that supply the mill – it’s a success story,” he said.
He added that the company was in the top five longest surviving companies, which he partly attributed to the company’s willingness to move with the times from the board level down.
Mr Russo agreed, adding that the company has had to adopt a multinational approach in every facet.
“We have to look outside the square. It’s not just Australian sugar milling anymore – it’s world sugar milling,” he said.
The company is also particularly proud of its number one quality compliance rating in the state.
For the past two seasons, the mill has been given a number one rating for quality compliance to QSL export specifications.
Mr Russo attributes the company’s success to its long-standing staff, who he says know the mill “like the back of their hand”.
The mill is looking forward to the next hundred years and is investigating long-term strategies to move into the future.
“There’s a lot of interest in the Australian sugar industry and investment in the industry and I’m confident that the best days are ahead of this company,” Mr Gorringe said.
“We’re thinking about the shape of the business for the next hundred years and working on at some more longer-term strategies.”
SUGAR INDUSTRY: Chairman of the board Peter Russo at the Isis Mill.