No. 3 Ross Roberts
IF YOU are one of the many young people who got a start in their working lives in the workshop at Harwood Marine, you might be tempted to rate its managing director Ross Roberts even higher than his third spot in this year’s Power 30 list.
Mr Roberts is proud of his company’s record as a successful marine construction and repair business employing hundreds of local people over the years.
He is particularly proud of the statistic that 20 per cent of the apprentices his business trains to trade level stay with the business.
He has also been partly responsible for the rapid construction of the nearby Harwood Bridge, spotting a good business opportunity to offer his slipway facility to the bridge builders.
They were able to ship in and assemble the massive cranes and float them to the site on barges. This capability saved time, money and hundreds of heavy vehicle journeys on our roads.
The proof of the pudding of Harwood Marine’s commitment to the region came with the 2014 decision to replace the ageing slipway with a modern facility capable of handling the larger vessels the company has in mind for its future.
The decision meant the slipway was out of action between October 2014 and February 2017 while the company’s workforce turned their attention to constructing the new centrepiece of the company’s operations.
Mr Roberts was proud to say the company funded the construction entirely from its own coffers, providing the Clarence Valley with a state-of-the-art shipbuilding and repair facility.
Indeed it was this very slipway that enabled the company to make its contribution to the bridge construction.
But he said the company really made its commitment to the Clarence Valley more than a decade earlier when the company noticed a disturbing trend in the shipbuilding industry.
He said buyers were taking their orders for vessels offshore because Australian labour prices could not compete with the prices overseas.
Shrewdly, the Harwood Marine management opened a shipyard in the Philippines building Australian-warranty ships at the prices the customers wanted.
“That was our point of difference – our ships were better quality and, with the warranty, repairs could be done by an Australian company,” Mr Roberts said.
Building Harwood Marine on the back of new business coming from around the world, the company was able to keep its lower Clarence operation profitable as well.