SOUTHERN Queensland export beef processor John Dee has secured almost $5 million in Federal Government funding towards the next stage of a major cold storage infrastructure project at the plant, near Warwick.
Working in collaboration with the Southern Downs Regional Council, the Hart family’s John Dee processing business has been successful in its joint application for $4.97 million in Federal funding towards a $15 million project, which it says will ultimately bring 150 new jobs to the region.
Beef Central profiled the first stage of the project in this earlier article.
The financial injection comes via the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions fund. The joint local government/private sector application is seen as an innovative approach to seeking funding for industry growth and job creation projects.
The next stage of John Dee’s cold storage redevelopment will include a new packaging area and cold storage, logistics and freight expansion. It will also free-up more space in the production area, leading to expansion in throughput. New jobs will be created across the business including information technology, freight and logistics and processing.
Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie said the project would be an enormous boon for the region.
“Council’s Economic Impact model suggests that the 150 new jobs will generate an additional 187 jobs in the wider economy, which is why projects of this type are important in regional towns like Warwick,” she said. Adding to John Dee’s existing workforce of 630, the project is expected to add another 80 new ‘indirect’ jobs along the production chain.
Construction is likely to begin in September, and will take 12 months to complete. Once complete, openings would be available for skilled slaughtermen, boners, slicers, packers and meat industry trainees, the company said.
John Dee chief executive Warren Stiff told local media the new facility would alleviate product handling and storage ‘bottlenecks’ within the plant, allowing processing areas to operate more efficiently and to increase overall production capacity.
The new cold storage facility will be build on-site adjacent to the existing plant and will be linked by overhead conveyor systems, with new product-handling robotics currently being installed in the product packaging and loadout area of the plant. The installation of the company’s first on-site robot is due to be completed in six weeks to palletise products.
“That allows us to head to automatic sorting and order picking, which will be more accurate and timely than the current process. This funding allows us to bring forward an investment decision by several years.”
“We’ve never asked for any government help before, and it’s appreciated to be selected from all of Australia to be supported,” Mr Stiff said.
The broader cold storage upgrade project will allow the company to take production to 3500 cattle each week, a 40pc increase on its current weekly figure of 2500 head. As well as processing for its own requirements, John Dee performs toll processing for a range of service kill clients including Rangers Valley, Stockyard, the Australian Agricultural Co and Gina Rinehart’s 2GR Wagyu brand.