Angie and Nick Horchner from 3i Electrical were looking for new ways to grow their business when they came across a Bundaberg Now story about recent Australian Defence Force (ADF) training exercise Talisman Sabre.
Ms Horchner said the story peaked their interest.
“I read some more about it, and it looked like there were some real opportunities opening up locally in the defence space,” Ms Horchner said.
“It would be wonderful to see local Bundaberg businesses like ours in a position to tender for defence contracts.”
3i Electrical is one of about 15 local businesses who have been accepted into a Defence Ready program after completing a short survey to determine their eligibility.
“We wanted to increase our knowledge and capability to make the most of these commercial opportunities,” Ms Horchner said.
“Defence is an entirely different sector to be in and there are a lot of additional requirements.”
Ms Horchner said her husband was experienced in the mining sector, and they wanted to expand their business beyond industrial, residential and commercial electrical work.
The Horchner family started 3i Electrical in March last year after returning home to raise their young family in Bundaberg.
“I am a direct descendent of Bert Hinkler and Nick is from Biloela. We are committed to the Bundaberg region, and want to grow our workforce locally as we pick up more work,” Ms Horchner said.
In a bid to boost the local economy and ensure more local businesses gain Defence contracts, Bundaberg Regional Council engaged Vaxa Group to facilitate the Defence Ready program, which will take place this week.
Vaxa Group Managing Partner Todd Crowley said the survey results showed a disconnect between business aspirations and their ability to win Defence tenders.
“The Defence Ready program is a great initiative to upskill these businesses and get them closer to work that they’re clearly very interesting in procuring,” Mr Crowley said.
“The easiest pathway for small and medium businesses to gain Defence work is to partner with a prime contractor who has the experience, systems and processes to deal directly with Defence.
“Defence usually go with prime contractors because of the risk profile, whereas it’s harder with smaller contractors to take that risk.
“The ADF has initiatives and minimum participation quotas for small to medium businesses, so many of their prime contractors have to engage smaller companies.”
Mr Crowley said there was immediate opportunity for local businesses to work with Defence in the Wide Bay Training Area and the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, which is about to undergo significant upgrades.
“Prime contractors such as Downer Group and Laing O’Rourke are crying out for local tradies of all sorts, so that they’re not having to fly people from Brisbane or Cairns,” he said.
“There are not enough people in Rockhampton for the Shoalwater Bay works, so they will need skilled businesses and staff from the Bundaberg region.”