The Whyalla Chamber of Commerce & Industry has worked furiously over the past 18 months to secure a future for Whyalla and its business community. Volunteer executive members have given up valuable time from their work and businesses to meet with Federal and State Government Ministers, including representatives from the State Development office, various branches of Defence (in relation to the new Air Warfare Destroyer program and Submarine build) and have represented Whyalla at the Senate Enquiry on Defence for Rural and Regional areas.
As such the Chamber is seen by these agencies as being proactive, gaining an immense respect for the assistance and help provided for the Whyalla community.
Recently, Chamber members were invited to attend a networking session with St Hilliers, the prime contractor on the Cultana Training Area Expansion Stage 1 project. The session provided an opportunity for local businesses to network and directly articulate their business capabilities to St Hilliers as well as encouraging them to register their interest in the project by providing their contact details. In doing this, St Hilliers could then approach each firm and ask them to tender for packages of work as part of the project. The event was seen as a proactive approach to engaging local businesses on the project.
In August, Whyalla successfully hosted the 2017 Global Maintenance Upper Spencer Gulf conference and Trade expo. The importance of this business event was to showcase known potential business opportunities on the horizon for the three Spencer Gulf Cities. During the open forum at this event, comments from the floor were made regarding the fact that Whyalla business had not been used or asked by St Hilliers to quote for the current defence work at Cultana. St Hilliers along with some Government agencies present at the conference have expressed concern regarding these misinformed and negative comments.
The remarks inferred it was an entitlement, where work from this project would be given exclusively to Whyalla contractors. Such an entitlement has never been guaranteed by anyone the Chamber is aware of. The Chamber has been active in attempting to change the mindset of local businesses in selling their capabilities and forging a working relationship / partnership with prime contractors and believe all business should understand the need to compete competitively for all work they do. Working for St Hilliers is no different. The Chamber’s view is the body of work required to complete Stage 1 of the Cultana project provides an opportunity for local businesses to tender for these contracts. If Whyalla contractors can demonstrate that they can compete and perform the work they are more than likely to be successful.
Regretfully this can only be achieved by the business owners / managers themselves. The Chamber, Regional Development Australia (RDA) and Department of State Development (DSD) are here to assist businesses to get involved in tendering for contracts offered by these primes and ensure best endeavours are made to create the fairest opportunity for all local businesses throughout this process. However, in the end, it is up to each business to demonstrate their capabilities and compete for the work.
At this time we all need to look at the opportunities that exist before us and the longer-term projects that are coming, and think outside the square to see how local business can service these projects and capture the money they bring for our local community.
The truth is, all businesses are encouraged and are entitled to submit their capability statements to the primes for them to better understand the local business capabilities, however we cannot and should not expect an entitlement to be given work without putting in the effort.
The Chamber Executive has maintained a close relationship with representatives from St Hilliers since the commencement of this project and can confirm that local contractors have already been engaged on the project. Local retail and service outlets are also being utilised by St Hilliers as the project progresses, further supporting our local economy.