MAIN backing

JUST five years ago, when the Mackay Area Industry Network (MAIN) started out, the coal industry was looking at a gloomy future as global demand shrank.
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Angie Tomlinson

Published in September 2005 Australian Longwall Magazine

With China, the sleeping giant, yet to fully awaken, major development projects were on hold. To make matters worse, the sugar industry, once Mackay’s mainstay, was suffering blow after blow with poor crops, bad seasons and low world prices.

There were some, however, who saw what the future might hold, who held on and with government support started up a network of mining service companies to build local capacity for the future.

Not only were their predictions for a much brighter coal future to come true, the network then-formed continues to work strongly to improve the conditions and opportunities for local companies.

MAIN – apart from offering networking opportunities - has two major focus areas. MAIN Care is addressing the industry’s skills shortage in a proactive manner and is a unique program offering employers all the necessary support to employ new apprentices, monitoring and managing the apprentices’ pathways through TAFE.

It also addresses any other training needs, while supporting the employer with reporting and other pastoral care as required for the apprentices. MAIN Care also attracts funding to run pre-vocational courses at trades entry level, providing the workplace with young potential tradesmen with basic skills.

The second area MAIN has addressed is in assisting companies enter the export market. At a time when workplace demand is high, targeting overseas markets is often difficult for small companies.

MAIN, with support from the Queensland State and Federal Government through various programs, has an active export group that has participated in two overseas trade missions and is preparing to attend the China Coal Show in Beijing in October.

The unique collective approach has meant that small companies are able to take advantage of programs such as the Export Market Development Grant, which would otherwise be prohibitive to small fledgling export companies.

Active export companies including Longwall Associates Australia, Anderson Industries, Callidan Instruments, JSIS, G&S Engineering and Global Steamexfire Inertisation Services (GSIS) have benefited from contacts made during these supported visits and are all now in repeat sales in China as well as tapping into other international markets.

“MAIN Cooperative has been a great catalyst for small local companies to work together and to derive maximum benefits from a variety of government and other programs,” said Peter Van Iersel, managing director of Longwall Associates Australia.

Van Iersel, who has recently taken on the role of chairman of MAIN from Group Engineering managing director Allan Ruming, sees a strong future for the cooperative, particularly in light of the demand for coal and the opportunities it presents to member companies.

“Not only do the large companies benefit, but the flow on effect to our smaller member companies from a major international order is significant.”

The group also acts as a conduit for information, both to and from various external bodies. Representing a large proportion of the engineering sector in Mackay, it is able to provide relevant up-to-date data, as well as provide a unified industry response to a number of issues of relevance to the region.

With the rapid growth of the mining industry and associated service and engineering companies, this role is critical in ensuring governments and others are aware of the needs and issues associated with such high growth. –by MAIN general manager Margaret Cameron.