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Yes they can: the exporters that beat the odds

Business

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The winner was surprised and most people in the room hadn’t heard of his  business, yet this local company manufactures in Adelaide and exports to 60 countries.

The Protect-it column protection system won the Small Business exporter award at Business SA’s annual Export Awards.

The Wingfield-based company is an example of an innovative manufacturing enterprise that’s been able to overcome the hurdles of a high dollar and high manufacturing costs in Australia.

Its product protects warehouse columns from the heavy traffic of forklifts. It’s the work of designer and innovator Paul Huxtable who saw a problem and found an answer.

“A friend of mine was talking about the damage done in his warehouse by forklifts, so I went away and thought about a solution,” he told the Export Awards audience on Friday.

His design was contrary to the conventional wisdom that steel is best; Huxtable’s hard plastic product is tougher, cheaper to buy, install and replace.

And Huxtable’s happy to keep manufacturing his product here in Adelaide.

“We could do it overseas or elsewhere, but we like it here so we’ll keep doing it here,” he said.

The Protect-It guards are now installed in warehouses in 60 countries, from Iceland to Afghanistan to the USA.

“I had a call recently from a colleague who said he was in a warehouse in Mozambique and our products were there.”

The big winner at the awards, Exporter of the Year, was well-established Kelly Engineering which continues to defy the odds by building and exporting farm machinery from Booleroo Centre in the Flinders Ranges.

Seventh generation farmers and now third generation manufacturers, Kelly Engineering is the inventor of the “disc chain” Kelly Diamond Harrow and has just exported its 1000th machine to the USA.

“There are hurdles, but you just have to get over them,” Shane Kelly told business leaders.

“We’re proud to represent South Australia.”

The company has overcome a decline in Australian sales by boosting exports by more than 30 per cent.

Winners of the state awards automatically qualify as finalists for the 2014 Australian Export Awards to be hosted by Aus Industry and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Business SA Chief Executive Officer Nigel McBride said the awards recognised the innovative exporting activity in South Australia.

“The Business SA Export Awards highlight our local innovative exporters who are based here in South Australia and demonstrate our ability to compete on a global stage,” McBride said.

“As always the quality of exporters has been outstanding and we hope that their inspiring success stories will encourage other local businesses to follow in their footsteps.

“In what is still a tough local business environment, these exporters have demonstrated that businesses from any industry and of any size can export successfully, if they have the right tools and the correct strategy.”

Minister for Investment and Trade Martin Hamilton-Smith’s keynote address focussed on government support programs for businesses looking to get involved in export.

“Kelly Engineering is a perfect example of what can be achieved through the TradeStart program,” he said.

“Their unique machinery has allowed them to access an international market, resulting in a 32 per cent growth in revenue despite a reduction of 40 per cent in the domestic Australian market.

“Since TradeStart was delivered in 2006 it has helped businesses enter and build relationships with international markets.

“Our advisers have assisted 630 exporters in the past year to facilitate export outcomes with a total value of close to $30 million.

“With TradeStart advisers located at Port Augusta, Naracoorte, Paringa and Adelaide’s CBD, businesses can access a full range of services to achieve success internationally.”

Business SA 2014 Export Award winners

SA Agribusiness Award: Ferguson Australia Pty Ltd

Channel 7 Creative Industries Award: Patch Theatre Company

Efic Environmental Solutions Award: B.-d Farm Paris Creek

National Wine Centre Health and Biotechnology Award: Soniclean

Austrade Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Award: Avinet

Department of State Development Manufacturing Award: Kelly Engineering

SA Regional Exporter Award: Blue Lake Milling

AusIndustry Small Business Award: Protect-IT Column Guards

StatewideSuper South Australian Exporter of the Year: Kelly Engineering

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