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Business Envoy December 2019 - Celebrating Australia’s diversity in business banner

BlackRock Industries: Mining Equipment, Technology and Services: Sustaining Aussie businesses in regional communities

The mining equipment, technology and services (METS) industry is a ‘bedrock’ for many communities in regional Australia. The businesses that drive the industry’s strong global reputation through innovation and hard work are more than 80 percent Australian owned, and a large portion are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). They provide jobs, skills development and support their local communities.

In addition to servicing the domestic industry, over half of all METS businesses access international markets to export their goods and services. The ongoing viability of the sector depends not only on the Australian know how, investment and entrepreneurship that has defined it, but also open access to overseas markets.

The Australian Government’s open trade and investment agenda is about ensuring these businesses benefit in the global marketplace.

BlackRock Industries, located in Muswellbrook in the Hunter region, is one business that is thriving thanks to Australia’s strong export-driven mining sector. The sector is the largest source of Australian export revenue and a key employer in regional Australia. The mining industry as a whole, including METS, directly supported 93,600 jobs in the Hunter region in 2015-16, and is responsible for roughly one third of all regional economic activity in Australia.

BlackRock Industries is an Indigenous-owned and run METS business that rapidly expanded from 45 staff in its first year of operation to 120 in its second. Its success has been driven by strong demand for its goods and services in the Hunter region’s booming mining sector.

Steve Fordham, Owner and Managing Director, BlackRock Industries, says “I think that’s one thing our resources sector does quite well…it not only creates jobs and sustainability in their employment but they provide opportunities for the businesses that are in the area to expand.”

In addition to the direct economic contribution of the mining and METS industry to the Australian economy – in 2015-16 representing $133.2 billion in value added – there is an enormous indirect value add from related inputs in other industries. In 2015-16 this was worth a further $103.6 billion, supporting another 655,654 jobs.

“Not only the [METS] companies like BlackRock that actually get work, but it’s everywhere from the fish and chip shop to the guy that’s selling you fuel at the end of the day. It provides a lot of sustainability and area for employment, opportunities, business economic development and a range of different services and I think that’s one thing that I hold highly for our resource sector” says Fordham.

BlackRock Industries has a strong corporate philanthropy ethos and believes in giving back to the local community. BlackRock is implementing a suite of diversity programs to boost the representation of women, Indigenous and youth workers. It also has an impressive prisoner rehabilitation program and so far has provided employment opportunities to over 30 prisoners.

BlackRock Industries also invests 90 percent of its funding for projects into local businesses.

“I want to show people that diversifying your workforce and providing opportunities and sustainability with Indigenous people, women, largely different demographics, that there’s opportunities for everyone; and you can succeed and have a sustainable business and a profitable business at the same time too, providing opportunities within that area.”

“I’d rather put a dollar in the local business, you’re providing shoes, you’re providing education for their kids, you’re providing sustainability, you’re providing that local setting for jobs and opportunities” says Fordham.

The future viability of the mining METS industry as a driver of regional economic and jobs growth depends on maintaining a competitive edge and developing resilience in global markets. According to the New South Wales Government’s draft Hunter regional plan, diverse export industries and increased capabilities to reach new markets and competitive international gateways are key factors that will help the Hunter region in becoming more innovative, competitive and resilient.

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