Ararat primed in bid
Ararat’s position as a national as well as state and regional manufacturing hot spot will gather momentum if a Victorian bid for a multi billion-dollar military vehicle contract is successful.
Ararat electrical wiring manufacturer AME Systems is a partner in a BAE Systems Australia bid for a Commonwealth LAND 400 Phase Two project.
A winning bid promises to provide significant development momentum for the business and long-term economic stimulus for the regional city.
Defence contractor BAE Systems Australia is one of two short-listed bidders for the Federal Government contract, which involves construction of 225 combat reconnaissance vehicles.
The other bid, from global defence manufacturer Rheinmetall, involves a Queensland-based contract.
If BAE is successful, AME Systems will have the responsibility of assembling electrical systems in Ararat for proposed AMV35 military vehicles in a project that might lead to further expansion opportunities.
AME Systems general manager Nick Carthew said a winning bid might be worth between $15-million and $30-million to the company and represent further opportunities to build on a growing workforce.
“It is hard to put a number on how many extra employees we would require, but on its own the project is likely to increase our staff by between 15 and 20 people,” he said.
“The nice part of it is that it would involve 30 years of sustainability in the provision of parts and expertise.”
AME Systems, as a result of an aggressive growth directive, is already on the hunt for more employees to meet the needs of a growing and diverse cache of contracts.
“Across the business, which includes sites in Bayswater and Malaysia as well as Ararat, we’ve put on 70 people in the past couple of months,” Mr Carthew said.
“We have an overall workforce of about 360, have a multitude of projects on the go and we are looking for another 30 people to work in Ararat.”
The State Government has signed a Heads of Agreement with BAE Systems to build the state-of-the-art eightwheel vehicles at a former Holden site at Fishermans Bend, should it win the contract.
Mr Carthew said the Federal Government was likely to announce a winning bid in the first quarter of 2018.
“This also represents an opportunity for investment into a research and development defence centre of excellence at Port Melbourne,” he said.
“For us, we have had quite an aggressive approach in pursuing the defence and aerospace sector.
“Our sales team has been working diligently for the past 18 months. We’re about developing electrical distribution and communication systems. Heavy trucks, defence, aviation – anything with a wire in it. Dog wash, car wash, if it has a wire in it, we’ll build it.”
Apart from AME Systems, BAE Systems has partnership agreements with companies Marand, MOOG Australia, Motec, RUAG Australia, DVR Engineering and APV to build vehicle parts.
Ararat mayor Paul Hooper agreed that AME Systems set an impressive benchmark for proactive and productive regional manufacturing.
He said discussions with high-level manufacturing insiders, even AME Systems competitors, revealed the Ararat company had lifted the bar across the industry and was now setting the standard.
“They are certainly a jewel in the crown of Ararat and if this is successful it will represent another critical step in a long journey for AME. It is not just a great opportunity for their business but Ararat as well,” Cr Hooper said.
“If they are successful it will mean an expansion of the workforce and firmly consolidate Ararat as a Victorian leader in regional manufacturing and processing.
“These are no fly-by-night employers. They have been with Ararat through thick and thin, have been fantastic corporate citizens and are part of the fabric of Ararat.”
AME Systems already has a glowing national defence-contract track record, providing electrical circuitry for military Bushmaster vehicles developed in Bendigo.
Premier Daniel Andrews said in a prepared statement that Victoria was the traditional home of vehicle manufacturing and the project would create thousands of jobs at a time when the automotive sector was in transition.
“Our message to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is simple – bring this work to Victoria. We have the workforce, the track record and the supply chain to get it done,” he said.