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Business in full recovery after 2011 floods

BUSY STAFF: Warwick Martin, owner of Pearls Radiator, Mechanical and Auto Air Conditioning (centre), with employees Graham Sangster and Matty Kerridge at the front of the Ipswich workshop.
BUSY STAFF: Warwick Martin, owner of Pearls Radiator, Mechanical and Auto Air Conditioning (centre), with employees Graham Sangster and Matty Kerridge at the front of the Ipswich workshop. Sarah Harvey

WITH the sounds of Auld Lang Syne fading from your ears, welcome to 2013! The new year has arrived, and with it the continuation of some significant projects in Ipswich City, and the full recovery of businesses from the floods of 2011.

As Warwick Martin comes back to work in 2013 to Pearls Radiator, Mechanical and Auto Air Conditioning, he will kick off another big year.

This is a far cry from almost two years ago when he was telling The Queensland Times that he was only back to about 70% capacity in late February, 2011. For Warwick and a number of other business operators in "auto alley", at 33 Brisbane St, Ipswich, business was anything but usual. His building was completely swamped.

"We have bounced back; we could have walked away as there was no insurance payout and it was only that the landlord really helped us out that we stayed. We had to pay everything up-front and then the government would refund us," Mr Martin said.

Unfortunately there were some casualties; the floods took out the Smith Brothers and a car detailer.

"We have been very busy and in fact there have been sometimes when we have had to turn some work away," he said.

As part of a new lifestyle he has moved his family to Ipswich: "I clocked up 250,000km in travel."

Recently he organised a large event to raise funds for the Sunshine Ward at the Ipswich Hospital. "It was a fun, family day. It was the Pearls' tough car day and we had raffles, bash the bomb (car) and rev the engine. Besides lots of noise, they raised $1500."

Ipswich City Council reported that 458 businesses were affected by the flood, 351 of these directly, the remainder indirectly with some water on the property. And 402 businesses have re-opened in the same location, with only 29 making a move; 22 businesses did call it a day, but this was, in some cases, due to the flood. Some they were considering closing anyway.

For businesses like Pearls, established since 1961, changing location was not the plan.

"We did have to cut our staff at the time, but we are getting back to full swing with four staff," Mr Martin said. "I believe in being honest, up-front and we care for our customers. Our customers have been fantastic to us."

Across the road, the Ipswich Central Coles complex was hit hard by the flood, and 2013 will mean the reopening of the new-look Coles, now featuring their signage on entering the city.

Mark Scates, Coles GM - Queensland Supermarket Retail Operations, said the new store would open on Wednesday, February 6 at 8am. "The store will have a coffee shop, in-house bakery, meat, seafood and mixed apparel," he said.

Mr Scates is very excited about this new store, featuring extra-wide aisles and it will be the 18th store to open with this format in Queensland.

"We consult with our customers to understand what they want. Once we open we will continue this consultative work to review after four weeks to see how we are meeting needs," he said.

Ken Lothian, Coles Ipswich manager, has recently come from getting their Bellbowrie store reopened after the flood. He has been with the company for 33 years and brings a wealth of experience to this store.

"We have undertaken our recruiting for staff, the shopfitters are in, stock will be arriving in the next few weeks. We have the handover on January 7 from the builders; we can then really get into finishing off the internals and stocking the shelves," he said.

Mr Lothian undertook his first training in the Ipswich and Nicholas St stores, so this is a welcome return in a spectacular new store. "It has been unusual for me to not be racing up to Christmas Eve this year, usually we are all flat-out."

Mr Scates added: "Customers will be able to park undercover and go into the supermarket via the travelator. It looks great. We work hard to carry local produce and we are proud to have many local growers involved including Rugby Farm, near Gatton."

The billion-dollar Icon Ipswich development will also open its doors this year. All of the feature walls to the Brisbane St entry, and the glass facade panels are finished. The nine-storey commercial tower is situated on the corner of Brisbane and Bell Sts in the Ipswich CBD and is the initial stage of the $1 billon Ipswich City Heart development by Ipswich City Properties and Leighton Properties. It features sustainability initiatives and is targeting a 4.5-star NABERS energy rating and a five-star Green Star.

It will be the first prime space-quality building in Ipswich, and is set to be the largest commercial building in Ipswich CBD with about 18,000sq m NLA.

Leighton Properties project director Bradley Norris said construction was progressing well.

Mr Norris said the project is on target for completion of the structure "topping out" in March 2013, with practical completion targeted for September 2013.

Ripley will see preparation work and construction carried out this year. Ecco Ripley, as the Sekisui development is known, is about the Environment, the Community, being Connected and providing Opportunities of, and for, a lifetime, according to a spokesman.

Sekisui House is master-planning 194ha in the urban core of Ripley Valley, to be known as Ecco Ripley, which will include the Town Centre "Ecco Ripley Central" and about 4000 dwellings.

Topics:  ashley jones, better business, opinion, queensland floods



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