Creating local jobs with renewable technology ticks a lot of boxes in the modern agricultural market, and that is exactly what the Lee brothers are doing, with a little extra motivation from the State Government.
Two years ago brothers Ben, Jock and Tim Lee’s company Australian Irrigation Investments (AII) purchased Gunnedah based pumping equipment specialists Lambert and Torrens.
While they were servicing the ag sector from the QLD border to Narromine, they “noticed very early on an interest and demand in solar pumping.”
Ben said that pumps use a lot of power, and with electricity prices soaring, and the price of diesel set to go up customers were asking what other options were available.
Six months ago the boys purchased Adelaide based solar pumping business Reaqua, to become what Ben believes to be the only Australian owned solar pumping business in the land, competing against three other foreign national owned operators.
While Jock and Tim stayed with Lambert and Torrens in Gunnedah, Ben set the ReAqua office up in Tamworth, while the office and distribution centre in Adelaide also remains fully operational.
Recently the AII team received a Jobs for NSW boost, a “Government-backed, private-sector led” program that could see them become part of a $200,000 business project, although they will have to meet some community based criteria first.
“We need to create a minimum of ten local full time jobs within two years,” Ben said.
“We recently employed two graduate engineers in Tamworth, and that brings us up to five already.”
“We have another 18 months to fulfill the criteria, and will more than likely need to employ those staff anyway.”
While the team didn’t necessarily need to stay in the New England North West region to operate Reaqua, “it just made sense to base the business in Tamworth.”
“The two businesses are essentially run separately, although we wanted to stay regional,” Ben said.
“Tamworth keeps us close to our client base, and has all the amenities needed to attract people.”
Local member Kevin Anderson announced the Jobs for NSW grant, saying the “boost in funding will generate more jobs, and help to attract more investment in the Tamworth region.”
“Jobs for NSW is helping to drive efforts to significantly grow regional centres like Tamworth to become accelerators for jobs growth and investment in the future,” he said.
The program is also targeting high growth small and medium enterprises with new loan products ranging from $200,000 to $1.2million, and a loan guarantee of up to $5million, with all loans subject to the same criteria of job creation.