Goulburn’s strategic location and the presence of a rail hub has lured a multi-million manufacturing project.
Wagga Wagga based Black Widow Glazing is aiming to manufacture the largest and strongest laminated construction glass in the Southern Hemisphere at a new factory in Ross Street, Bradfordville.
The operation is expected to be up and running by January at the former Tefco Trailers site, which is being leased.
Director Kate Wendt said her company was developing a prototype product in conjunction with companies in Japan and Barcelona that would be built in Goulburn. It would produce a military-grade strength laminate for use in residential, commercial and institutional settings.
“It’s something very different for Australia,” Ms Wendt said.
“Australia is 15 years behind the rest of the world in glass and this will bring it up to the modern age. Mine will be the only company in the Southern Hemisphere doing glass to this size. It will immediately wipe out imports of this product from China.”
She described it as a multi-million project but declined to state the precise investment. Ms Wendt estimated 10 jobs in the first stage, six in the second and by year three, an additional 29 positions. Initially the company would draw on specialist engineers from China and Europe who would be trained at Goulburn before being sent home. However most of the remaining workforce would be recruited locally.
The company is leasing land at 34 Ross Street for the factory. The first stage comprises a 60 metre by 20 metre building but eventually the operation will be three times this size.
“It’s a significant investment for Goulburn,” Ms Wendt said.
Her company has been liaising closely with Goulburn Mulwaree Council but also Jobs NSW and the Department of Premier and Cabinet which will assist in export opportunities initially to New Zealand, Indonesia, followed by the rest of the world in stage two.
Ms Wendt said Goulburn’s location, its “fantastic rail hub” in the city’s south, enabling transport to Adelaide and Perth markets, and affordable land that wasn’t built out, were key drawcards.
“The entire point of building in Goulburn was because it was logistically central,” she said.
The company currently has its accounting base in Wagga Wagga and workshop in Bankstown. The entire business, save for the Bankstown distribution point, would be shifted to Goulburn.
Ms Wendt said the council had been very supportive in providing contacts but had not given direct incentives.
The product is in research and development phase. Drawing on technology developed by the company’s Barcelona partner, it will be manufactured using a vacuum furnace rather than the traditional autoclave, which Ms Wendt describes as energy intensive and costly. The CSIRO will test its strength to ensure it’s comparable with European standards.
A specialist machine will produce laminated glass ranging in size from 500mm by 500mm to eventually, 12 metres by 33 metres as the factory’s stages developed. It can be used in construction, including flooring and airport buildings. The company is also exploring its use for interactive television screens and as a replacement for timber beams.
“There are a million uses for laminated glass,” Ms Wendt said.
She told The Post she had been fascinated with glass most of her life.
“My father, who was a Master Builders representative, said women didn’t belong in the building industry. That’s what motivated me. It was a career choice,” she said.
“I have builders qualifications and have worked in the industry. Glass is my forte and my interest lies in the logistics of shifting it around and how to make it structural.”
All of the machinery is expected to be onsite by mid-December and the first stage operational by mid- January.
The council’s business development manager Jackson Reardon said it was fantastic Ms Wendt had chosen Goulburn to establish what he described as “an innovative glass processing business.”
“I know that she considered many cities around NSW and settled on Goulburn due to our location and services, particularly our rail hub which I know she intends to utilise,” he said.
“The council has worked closely with Kate over the last few months, and look forward to a positive working relationship as the business hopefully continues to grow and thrive.”
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