People and Places
28/08/2019
Cool companies in Carrum Downs

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Last issue we told the story of Carrum Downs Industrial Estate, which has been transformed from paddocks to an innovative industrial precinct in just over 30 years. More than 8600 people are employed in the zone, which generates $3.65 billion a year in gross regional product. In this issue, Mike Hast takes a look at some innovative businesses in the estate.

Expanding Carrum Downs Industrial Estate is high on the agenda of the region’s business community with the last blocks of land expected to sell this year. Right in our backyard we have innovative companies producing world-leading products and employing highly skilled workers. Now there’s a call for vacant land to be rezoned to allow stellar employment growth to continue —13 times faster than the southern regional average. More land would enable existing businesses to expand, preserving and increasing jobs in our region, as well as accommodating new businesses.

Advocacy group Committee for Greater Frankston says the precinct is a vital cog in the region. Committee CEO Ginevra Hosking says expansion is essential so “our major employers remain at Carrum Downs and jobs stay in the region”.

Nutech Paint is one of many businesses supporting the expansion call. Its aim is to consolidate its nine factories, all on Keppler Circuit. Nutech has made its mark in the highly competitive paints and sealants industry with three revolutionary products: cool roof paint that reflects heat — “sunscreen for roofs”; a range of biodegradable and environmentally friendly paint strippers; and a bacteria-retarding lime-based paint for hospitals that also absorbs and traps CO2 as it dries.

AFI Branding is a world leader in making large, colourful fabric signs, banners and flags for the retail, exhibition and event sectors, all from its purpose-built, hi-tech factory in Lakewood Blvd. It was built when AFI won the signs contract for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. It produces signs for many major events, including the Melbourne Grand Prix. AFI’s most-admired product is its patented ReFrame, a lightweight, tensioned fabric display system that can bend or curve into 3D shapes and be illuminated. Artwork can be easily changed and the whole system comes in a flat pack. AFI expects to expand again in two to three years and wants to stay in Carrum Downs, where it can continue to employ skilled staff.

Another firm making world-leading products is the award-winning MultiPanel, which created a 100 per cent waterproof, lightweight building panel that doesn’t need a membrane. It can be used for shower bases (one version sells for just $220) that can be tiled over, for walls and floors of bathrooms as well as for balconies and plinth boards for building bases. MultiPanel, started by Frankston plumber Tony Russo, would double production if it could get new land for a new factory.

Harnessing our precious trans-Tasman relationship is Hysport, which makes a range of lightweight, warm and fashionable clothing using 100 per cent Australian merino wool blended with New Zealand possum fur. Possums are a pest species in NZ but are protected in Australia. MerinoSnug brand garments were launched in 2004 and have become popular with cold Melburnians — and the factory outlet in Colemans Rd is convenient.

In the ‘home’ category is Camerons Blinds & Awnings, a classic family business success story. It started in the family garage in 1985, rapidly gained a reputation for good products — blinds, awnings, shutters and canopies — and good service, moved to a two-factory facility in the industrial estate, and moved again seven years ago to bigger premises, including arguably Melbourne’s large showroom of its type at 700 Frankston–Dandenong Rd.

The Camerons story shows why Carrum Downs needs more factories: successful businesses that start small and grow need to expand and in most cases want to remain in the precinct, where the logistics are good, they have established a reputation, and near where their employees live.

Woodtron is another niche manufacturer matching it with the world’s best. It was founded in 2008 and designs and makes computer-controlled woodworking routers. The customised machines are used for cabinet-making — kitchens etc — and shopfitting. Clients praise the quality and reliability of the machines in the exacting and highly competitive world of kitchen cabinet-making.

“Carrum Downs drives the prosperity of the whole region,” Ms Hosking said. “It is home to great commercial and industrial businesses. Having enough land for business to expand is the key to providing more jobs now and into the future.”

Mike Hast is a freelance writer for the Committee for Greater Frankston, and a former editor of Peninsula newspapers.

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