Manufacturing – a key ingredient of a diversified economy
Font Strategic Partner, Paul Arnold gives his views on Tasmania’s North West economy
The manufacturing base of the North West economy is a key strength that has emerged over the past 40 years. While the mining region’s heritage has a century of history, it is only the emergence of manufacturing expertise that has brought about the innovative mining solutions that have broadened the economic base of the NW economy.
Look no further than Dale Elphinstone, who commenced work for William Adams in the 1970s and went on to solve the unique underground mining challenges of the West Coast. His solutions led to the manufacture of international-quality underground mining machines, from Burnie, which have now been exported to more than 70 countries.
Little wonder the latest decision in the Caterpillar restructure has been met with much disappointment, with the loss of around 200 direct jobs by Christmas 2015 and termination of supply contracts that will potentially cost hundreds more.
From small beginnings in the 1970s, the Caterpillar manufacturing facility grew to be a cornerstone of engineering, with hundreds of staff and contractors benefitting from the multi-million dollar business. The Caterpillar story has been pivotal in establishing the NW economy, with the creation of a critical mass to take on many other innovative developments and mining activities.
Many engineers, from all perspectives, have been trained, skilled and developed, and their attention to design, quality and innovation has kept manufacturing at a global standard in this relatively isolated corner of the world. Over the decades, many of those engineers have branched out into their own innovative enterprises, adding to the depth of manufacturing capability in the region. There is a lot to celebrate about the influence we have had on the world stage.
While the loss of jobs at Caterpillar will be challenging, the engineering, manufacturing and capability that is present across many businesses will mean that there is a strong opportunity for something to emerge from the ashes.
When added to the region’s immense mining potential, I believe the time is right to realise a new dream. Who knows? Caterpillar may yet come to realise the depth of what our people have achieved here and may look to tap into that incredible reservoir of capability and capacity that we enjoy.