THE vision of Frew Group of Companies owner and managing director, Robert Frew is clear, he hopes to expand operations at the Stawell abattoir to the extent that it one day employs up to 500 people.
Mr Frew is well on his way to achieving that goal following a $2.1 million expansion that has already created an extra 98 jobs and boosted exports to Asia.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development, Peter Ryan was in Stawell for yesterday's official opening of the expansion to a site that has gone from employing 37 staff in 1984 to more than 400 today.
Mr Ryan said the Victorian Coalition Government had invested $500,000 to support the expansion, with Frewstal contributing more than $1.5 million and the Northern Grampians Shire Council contributing $30,000 in planning support.
"This would have to be the best $500,000 any government of any persuasion has actually committed to a project," he said.
"This investment ensures Frewstal will continue to process meat locally, supporting local jobs and the local community."
The expansion has exceeded expectations with the original estimate of 50 new jobs almost doubling to 98 new jobs once the project was complete.
The project involved the construction of a new freezer/chiller facility that has enabled Frewstal to increase the production and storage of cut and boned out meat.
The new freezer/chiller facility has a capacity of 168 tonnes which enables product to be supplied direct to port from Stawell, supplying high value export markets.
It also included upgrades to truck loading areas, new car parking facilities and improved access in and out of the site.
Four years ago, Frewstal became a Halal accredited site to complement its move into the export market, opening up a wider customer base both overseas and domestically.
Mr Frew said after tapping into the Middle East market there are now plans to apply to Chinese markets.
“Going export three years ago was a real turning point for the company. We jumped up from 250 employees to 420, which is fantastic,” he said.
“Tier one has been great, but it is time to go tier two and that will happen in September this year.”
Mr Frew said the company plans to spend a lot more money in Stawell over the next couple of years, with a $2 to $3 million project to modernise the plant with alterations to the meat and kill floor, set to create a further 20 to 30 jobs.
“We need to expand with confidence and moving forward, we would hope to one day employ 450 to 500 people,” he said.
Northern Grampians Shire Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin said the expansion of Frews was magnificent.
“This obviously means more employment and they are taking it to a further level which will be further employment down the track,” he said.
Mr Ryan said three super trade missions to the Middle East in the last three years had opened a lot of doors for the state of Victoria.
“But, as I have said in many many forums, none of this matters unless private enterprise has the confidence to invest and be able to create the sort of jobs that are important to our regional areas,” he said.
“A growth in demand from export markets continues to drive this business and the Coalition Government looks forward to working with the company to deliver further expansions at the site.”