O'Connell Agencies bringing manufacturing back to Ipswich
IN A CENTURY-old factory down a grassy street in Blackstone, O'Connell Agencies owner Kaitlyn Moore is bringing manufacturing back to Ipswich.
Nine machines housed on the factory's ground floor turn strips of PVC into concrete column forms, ready to be shipped out to high-rise buildings under construction across Australia.
After taking it over 14 years ago, Ms Moore has turned the former import business into Australia's biggest PVC column form manufacturer.
Her business has supplied some of the biggest construction projects in the country, including the 46-storey Queensland Government Executive Building and the 300m Homebush Bay Bridge in Sydney.
"My dad is a formworker, so I guess construction is in my blood," Ms Moore said.
"I just love to see multi-level buildings going up or bridges going up - that's the biggest thrill for me."
The forms act as a mould to pour concrete in once on site, and each one is manufacturing specifically for each project.
"There's a huge amount of engineering that goes into this product," Ms Moore said.
Until last year, O'Connell Agencies was a Brisbane business with Ipswich employees.
But when an employee urged her to consider buying the vacant factory on Mary St, Ms Moore took the chance to move her business to the city she grew up in.
"It's great to be back in Ipswich," she said.
"Because of the strategic location of Ipswich, which is the centre of south-east Queensland, I'm able to tap into very large projects."
Ms Moore decided to make the switch from importing five years ago thanks to a busy market and a belief in the manufacturing industry.
"Importing from China became very popular and I faced a lot of competition," she said.
"I looked at a product that couldn't be imported easily and had to be fabricated here...so I looked at columns."
Her business has only grown from there and can now make column forms with a diameter of 600mm right up to 1.8m.
She said the next machine would arrive in coming months and could manufacture forms measuring up to 3.6m across.
"That's for really big bridges and major infrastructure projects," Ms Moore said.
She hopes to supply multi-level buildings in the Ipswich CBD and tap into projects such as the new casino planned in Brisbane.
The business has also expanded into manufacturing square column forms.
Ms Moore and her staff are now experimenting with new sizes for square columns to put themselves on the forefront of a building trend she expects to expand rapidly.
"I think it's a bit of a sleeping giant and it start to really explode over the next couple of years," she said.
Ms Moore said the team of 18 Ipswich staff were an invaluable part of the business's success.
"My team are central to what I do," she said.
"I appreciate being back in my home base and so do my staff."
The mum of three said success in business was not about making money.
"It is difficult and it is constant, but you have to have the courage to do it," she said.
"You have to be following your passions in life, and mine just happens to be columns."
O'Connell Agencies will host an open day at the Mary St factory this Friday from 2pm-6pm.