Small businesses thrive in Toowoomba

A massive project to build rigs for Shell’s QGC business is helping Toowoomba sustain a diverse economy and offsetting the impact of the drought on local businesses.

Local company Easternwell was last year awarded a five-year contract to build well servicing rigs and other services for Shell’s QGC.  

The rigs are being built in Toowoomba and the benefits are flowing right through the community.

As well as creating work for locals, the contract has generated procurement opportunities for suppliers in the region.

So far, 43 per cent of Easternwell’s spend on the rig build project have been with local and regional businesses.

For one local supplier, family-owned Brown Electrical, the project has created the opportunity to employ an extra tradesman and engage an electrical technician on a casual basis, says finance manager Lyndal Brown. 

While the drought is having an “undeniable effect” on businesses in the region, Brown Electrical has continued to purchase materials and source local services because it is involved in a project of this magnitude.

“Easternwell engaging our services means we will have continuity and certainty for many months.” Lyndal Brown, Finance Manager, Brown Electrical

“We pride ourselves on, where possible, using local suppliers and contractors. For this particular project we have sourced materials from local wholesalers and have engaged the services of a steel manufacturer.”

Easternwell is sourcing materials ranging from steel through to paint, fuel, oil, safety equipment, nuts, bolts, lifting equipment and protective clothing from local suppliers within the Toowoomba and Surat Basin region.

The Toowoomba-based company, which is a subsidiary of global services provider Broadspectrum, expects to boost its local procurement by nine per cent. Its local workforce will be increased by 20 per cent.

The plan will help cement the cluster of expertise that has developed in the Darling Downs and South West Queensland for gas field construction and maintenance work.

Shell’s QGC Vice President East, Tony Nunan said that QGC’s natural gas business was a multi-decade investment across the region.

“We are really proud of what we have been able to achieve with the ongoing support of our local communities, including spending around $65 million with suppliers in the Toowoomba Council region for the first half of this year,” Mr Nunan says.

Shell’s QGC business was pleased the work created by the contract with Easternwell would help to sustain over 300 regional jobs and supply opportunities for local businesses in the Surat region.

Oztec Manufacturing is providing site offices and other components for the project.

The firm’s director John Sheehan says the project has helped the firm grow its workforce from 12 to 18 people this year.

“It’s good work,” Mr Sheehan says, adding that there has been work supplying Easternwell on other projects.

“We're hoping it will be an ongoing kind of thing.”

Obadare Group is providing rig components including mast and mud pump manifolds.

Obadare managing director Matt Warner says the firm, which has between 48 and 50 employees, has added three extra employees because of the project.  

“Business is growing off the back of increased activity in the drilling and well service industries.” Matt Warner, Managing Director, Obadare Group

“This can be quantified by Australia’s increased active rig count, increased revenue for our business and increased staffing requirements.”

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