Powering into offshore markets

Written on the 11 August 2009

Powering into offshore markets

In a year when global markets went into recession and business sentiment took a more pessimistic tone, many local exporters have thrived. A perfect example is NOJA Power, a Murarrie-based company that makes electricity supplies more reliable. The business now exports to 70 countries. Managing director Neil O’Sullivan tells Brisbane Business News how his switchgear circuit breakers are delivering 100 per cent per annum growth at ‘the click of a switch’.

With the help of Trade Queensland, NOJA Power signed $19.6 million in contracts to supply specialised electrical products to Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Brazil last financial year. But managing director Neil O’Sullivan says total contracts were worth much more than that.

O’Sullivan says NOJA supplies medium voltage switchgear to electric power distributors, the ‘Energexes of the world’ and as a ‘green’ effective alternative to other technologies, the company expects to grow.

“We’ve been operating over the past decade and enjoyed almost 100 per cent per annum growth — with continued investment into research and development we expect this to continue,” he says.

“What we have is a solid dielectric insulation system – in the past you always had to use oil or Sulphur hexafluoride gas (SF6), which is the worst greenhouse gas known to man. We’ve redeveloped the product to eliminate SF6 and the oil, as an environmentally-friendly solution and a real alternative.

“These medium voltage circuit breakers act the same as the circuit breaker in your home except they detect faults on overhead power lines and open and close to restore supply.”

He says when there are faults on overhead power lines as a result of lightning, high winds, tree branches or animals, in 90 per cent of cases these faults can be cured by opening a circuit breaker taking supply away and then re-closing that circuit breaker within milliseconds.

NOJA made its first international foray in 2002 by selling its product to China and the company hasn’t looked back since.

“We realised early on that our world-first technologies, which increase the reliability of electricity supply, had many global applications so it was always our intention to sell overseas as well as domestically.”

Now’s the time

Now is the time to export as Brisbane companies span the globe looking for ‘ground floor’ business relationships, on the back of demand for new innovations and the city’s firmly established sectors.

It is a business venture that can significantly boost revenues for a company, but Trade Minister Stephen Robertson says exporting goes much further than just finding new markets.

“Many Queensland businesses are finding success in exploring overseas markets, and not just in economic terms. Anecdotal evidence suggests that exporting can also be beneficial in terms of business efficiency — lifting productivity and staff morale,” says Robertson.

He highlights that in addition to Queensland’s established industries there are a number of non-traditional industries generating strong interest abroad, such as green building services, mining equipment and emerging technologies, creative industries, aviation, and intelligent transport systems.

“There are also several high value-adding emerging industries such as pharmaceuticals and medicinal product manufacturing, and medical and surgical equipment manufacturing, where Queensland is securing a growing competitive advantage,” he says.

“Our valuable commodities industries have seen an export downturn during the slowed economic times, which is a trend reflected globally — however, Australia’s export industry has remained comparatively stable compared to the rest of the world and I expect China’s need for reliable supplies of resources to continue.”

Despite a slump in Chinese resource demand over the last financial year, merchandise exports increased by more than $1 billion in the three months leading up to April, representing almost a third of the state’s export boost.

While China is the state’s largest trading partner behind Japan, Trade Queensland led 21 trade missions in 08/09 as it continues to establish strong trading links for the future.

“Latin America, The Middle East, India and Russia are good examples of emerging global markets that Trade Queensland is working in to identify and exploit new exporting opportunities for Queensland businesses,” says Robertson.

“Trade Queensland assisted Queensland companies to secure more than $500 million in export sales in 2008-09 – this is a stellar result when contrasted to Trade Queensland’s total operating budget of around $30 million.

“Half a billion dollars in export deals for Queensland businesses means Queensland jobs.”

Robertson cites the key export industries in Brisbane as infrastructure-related deals, architecture, agriculture, seafood, metalliferous ores and coal, as well as environmental and building products and services – and of course, education.

“International education and training is worth some $2 billion to the State’s economy, and supports some 17,000 jobs – the industry is expected to continue growing.”

The number of Brisbane companies finding opportunities abroad is vast, but Robertson highlights a few success stories such as NOJA Power, Urban Art Projects, Claypave and Populous

A few more success stories
Since Urban Art Projects (UAP) won the 2008 Premier of Queensland’s Export Award in the emerging exporter category, it has sealed a number of worldwide deals and its staff base has grown by around 40 per cent.

In May, the Brisbane-based design company unveiled some major features for a high-value public art and design works for a new university in Saudi Arabia.

Trade Queensland says the deal with the new King Abdullah’s University of Science and Technology is worth tens of millions of dollars, as UAP continues to work to securing further contracts overseas in Europe, Japan, and India.

Claypave is another Brisbane company supplying contracts in the Middle East, with the latest orders for the region amounting to $63,000 to supply building and landscaping materials, as well as a contract in Japan worth an additional $70,000.

The company employs 140 people in Brisbane’s southwest along with world-class technology to produce quality natural clay pavers for supply to the international landscaping industry – export sales now contribute 50 per cent to annual revenue.

And let’s not forget how much Brisbane loves its sport, so it makes sense that another rising star is Populous – the company that built Suncorp Stadium and Skilled Park has joined a major partnership to design the US$400 million main stadium in Incheon, Korea, to be built for the Asian Games in 2014.

The architectural company has also secured contracts for the Tianjin XiQing Sports Park for the 2013 East Asian Games in China and Taiwan’s Taipei Dome.

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