PASS­ING OF A BRIL­LIANT BUSI­NESS LEADER

Digga CEO loses fight with can­cer

The Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS - ALIS­TER THOM­SON alis­ter.thom­son@news.com.au

Trib­utes to Digga CEO Suzie Wright, who passed away re­cently af­ter a bat­tle with can­cer

TO CEO Suzie Wright, a fire that de­stroyed Digga’s Yatala fac­tory was a “great team build­ing ex­er­cise”.

But to her 160 staff, the way she han­dled the after­math of the dev­as­tat­ing blaze was noth­ing short of mirac­u­lous.

The pas­sion­ate cham­pion of Australian man­u­fac­tur­ing, who pulled the lead­ing Gold Coast man­u­fac­turer through in­cred­i­ble chal­lenges, will be farewelled to­day af­ter los­ing her fight with ovar­ian can­cer. She was 49.

Her great­est chal­lenge came in March 2016 when a fire melted equip­ment and caused tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in dam­age.

Ms Wright told the Bulletin in 2016 that when she first heard of the blaze she did not think too much of it.

“I said to the firey ‘How quick can I get the boys back work­ing?’

“He had this big smile on his face. He said: ‘You know what? You should call your in­sur­ance com­pany’.”

Ms Wright said her aim was to get the fac­tory back in ac­tion as soon as pos­si­ble.

An­other man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity was found on nearby Link Drive and work­ers were put up in de­mount­a­bles, with Digga man­u­fac­tur­ing from its new base within days.

“I had ship­ments to meet. It was not an emo­tional thing for me. I re­act best un­der pres­sure,” she said nine months af­ter the fire.

Ms Wright died last Fri­day af­ter bat­tling a rare form of ovar­ian can­cer for 15 months.

A state­ment from Yata­l­abased Digga, which makes ma­chin­ery at­tach­ments such as buck­ets for earth­mov­ing ve­hi­cles, said the com­pany had lost a “vig­or­ously pas­sion­ate and in­tel­li­gent woman”.

“The Australian man­u­fac­tur­ing com­mu­nity has lost its great­est ad­vo­cate and the world has lost a com­pas­sion­ate and amaz­ing hu­man be­ing,” the state­ment read.

“No words can ad­e­quately ex­press our sad­ness at Suzie’s death or our grat­i­tude for the op­por­tu­nity to work with her over the past 21 years.”

Ms Wright was born and raised on the Gold Coast and worked in her fa­ther’s con­tract­ing and con­struc­tion busi­ness, where she gained hand­son ex­pe­ri­ence in con­struc­tion pil­ing and other skills, for more than 15 years.

She joined Digga in the mid-1990s and was ap­pointed CEO in 2004 at the age of 35. The com­pany was founded by her ex-hus­band Ste­wart Wright in 1981.

A pas­sion­ate cham­pion of Australian man­u­fac­tur­ing, Ms Wright told the Bulletin in 2016 that if she had a spare $1 mil­lion, she would in­vest in the in­dus­try.

“I to­tally be­lieve in it and am pas­sion­ate about it,” she said.

“I’m in­volved with Grif­fith Univer­sity’s Ad­vanced De­sign and Man­u­fac­tur­ing In­sti­tute and, with this fa­cil­ity (Digga’s fac­tory at Yatala), we’ll help peo­ple to go into man­u­fac­tur­ing. If we lose our trades they are gone for­ever.”

As well as lead­ing the com­pany fol­low­ing the fire, the Digga state­ment lists the con­sol­i­da­tion of its Australian oper­a­tions, res­cu­ing and suc­cess­fully in­te­grat­ing Kanga Load­ers into the Digga busi­ness, and es­tab­lish­ing a large man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in the US as her great­est achieve­ments.

“She was head­ing a global com­pany in what was, pre­dom­i­nantly, clas­si­fied as a man’s in­dus­try,” the state­ment goes on to say.

“In­spir­ing women glob­ally, she paved the way for other fe­males at Digga and through­out the in­dus­try to take on roles that were tra­di­tion­ally seen as be­ing for men.”

Ms Wright is sur­vived by her hus­band Alan Wade, daugh­ter Zoe Davies and son Liam Wright.

Mr Wright will re­main as chair­man, Mr Wade will step into the CEO po­si­tion of Digga Group and Peter Moody will re­main as chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

It is un­der­stood a pri­vate fu­neral for fam­ily will be held to­day and a cel­e­bra­tion of Ms Wright’s life on June 23.

Con­tact zoed@digga.com for de­tails of the pub­lic cel­e­bra­tion.

Pic­ture: MIKE BATTERHAM

For­mer Digga CEO Suzie Wright, who lost her bat­tle with ovar­ian can­cer last week, will be re­mem­bered as a strong and in­spi­ra­tional leader.

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