Bindaree Beef have announced an expansion set to dramatically increase their operations and create 200 new jobs in Inverell - a move once planned for 2025 now brought forward to just next year if approved.
The announcement on Friday was accompanied by MP Adam Marshall revealing the state government would be contributing $4 million, enabling the abattoir to become one of the single largest employers in the New England region.
Bindaree Beef chief executive officer Andrew McDonald said the expansion wouldn't just create production line opportunities, but everything from fitters, turners, electricians and more, against a background of the wider move by the company to transfer finance and export team jobs from metro Sydney to the Sapphire City base.
"As Australia is an extremely high-cost country in comparison to our beef export competitors in South America, it is imperative that we play in a completely different space," he said.
"In the 26 years that Bindaree has been at Inverell, we have never seen a brighter opportunity for Australian beef on the world stage."
"It's very exciting news for Bindaree Beef but also the Inverell community and the broader Northern Tablelands," Mr Marshall said.
"It will mean this plant will end up employing very close to 1000 people in this community. It's already the largest employer in Inverell, but it will become one of the largest single employer anywhere in the New England region.
"This grant is a vote of confidence from the state government in the future of Bindaree Beef based right here in the Northern Tablelands, but its also a vote of confidence for job creation and creating more economic activity for Inverell and the district."
In those two and a half decades in town, Mr McDonald estimated they'd paid the state government up to $26 million in payroll tax, explaining the tax payer would not be at a loss for having supported the expansion.
"We look at this as a really good return on investment for the tax payer. We have a $4 million grant coming in that we are matching dollar for dollar - and I think our investment will be significantly higher than $4 million - but also we pay $2.5 million in payroll tax, so we are talking about an 18 month return on our current payroll tax," Mr McDonald said.
Work to begin
This grant, one of the largest made to date from the Regional Job Creation Fund, will help Bindaree Beef to build a training amenity to upskill existing staff and train new employees, a staff wellbeing centre, as well as an expansion to its boning room facility, giving the plant additional capacity during peak periods and room for those 200 full-time jobs.
One of the conditions of Bindaree's grant is to have their development application (DA) submitted to council before Christmas.
If it's successful, construction will begin "very early next year".
Accepting the challenges in the current hiring climate and admitting there were roles waiting to be filled even now - "it's very hard to find employees" - Mr McDonald said they were operating under several plans to be "able to keep filling roles" and were prepared for the next 18-months-worth of "challenges".
Mr McDonald said following this announcement, they would be working closely with the Inverell Shire Council to make a plan to support more housing and other infrastructure needs to attract more workers.
With Inverell still reeling from the 'shock' departure of Inverell's Real Pet Food Company and the resulting loss of jobs, Mr McDonald said they'd been meeting fortnightly with the company's management team and their employees, giving them the open door welcome when their own shut after Christmas.
The abattoir also traditionally employs a large overseas workforce - a workforce that was diminished during the hard international border closures.
Mr Marshall said even though there was no regional quarantine system in place, the current quarantine arrangements for NSW are the best and cheapest compared to anywhere else in the country.
"We don't have a regional quarantine system. We considered it in Tamworth and not only was there push-back from the community it would have increased costs to industry and employers," he explained.
"For NSW it's $3000 per person in Sydney and the state government pays half, so that's $1500... we have the cheapest quarantine set-up in Australia."
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