WINE is proving the way ahead for Activ Industries, the business services division of the Activ Foundation.
However, a shortage of jarrah timber could pose some problems for some of the organisation’s business activities.
Activ Industries is the second largest employer of people with intellectual disabilities in Australia.
It provides employment to more than 1,000 people with intellectual disabilities at 18 sites across Western Australia.
In terms of staff numbers it is second only to the Queensland-based Endeavour.
Last year AI’s turnover was $8.5 million, up 10 per cent on the previous year.
Growth in services it provided to the wine industry is one of the major reasons for this increase.
The annual turnover for AI’s Property Care services grew by more than 50 per cent in the past financial year.
Activ Industries general manager Peter Beaton said AI sought out companies that were looking to outsource some of their labour intensive or cost prohibitive processes.
“The wine industry is a very big growth area for that,” he said.
“Delabelling and relabelling wine bottles is one of our major areas in that field. We did 250,000 bottles for Palandri and we did it in quick time.”
Mr Beaton said AI’s Bunbury, Manjimup and Busselton workshops were well positioned to take advantage of the wine industry opportunities.
“We’re just about to put in a Bunbury-based sales representative that will service that industry right through the South West,” he said.
“We are also members of the Wine Industry Association.”
AI is also involved in the crayfishing industry. It is one of the major manufacturers of the pots the fisherman use.
It makes the pots in Geraldton and its workshop in Bentley.
However, low prices for rock lobster this year have affected cray pot sales.
Mr Beaton said fishermen were not buying as many, in some cases preferring to recycle their old ones.
“We fabricate the cray pots ourselves, manufacture the jarrah frames and make the complete article,” he said.
Shortages of jarrah timber are posing a problem for AI though. Besides the cray pots another strong area for AI has been the manufacture of surveyor’s pegs and wooden crates for holding fruit and vegetables.
Mr Beaton said there was not enough of the type of timber the company needed.
“A lot of the produce growers are looking to buy plastic rather than wooden crates,” he said.
“Recently Main Roads and the Government have said they would accept their stakes in materials other than jarrah.”
Maintenance of properties has been another traditionally strong area for AI, growing 50 per cent in the past financial year.
Its clients in the Property Services field include the Water Corporation and the Maylands Police Complex.
AI also repairs water meters for the Water Corporation.
Besides its workshops AI also embeds some of its employees in organisations.
One example is five workers who report for work to the Department of Agriculture headquarters in South Perth.
Those workers have responsibility for the headquarter’s grounds.
Mr Beaton said the department’s staff had taken complete ownership of the employees.
“They’ve provided them with lunch room facilities and an airconditioned shed,” he said.
“It’s a great example of people with disabilities working in the mainstream workforce.”
AI grew out of Activ Foundation, an organisation that is more than 50 years old.
Activ was started in 1951 by a group of parents seeking a service for their children with intellectual disabilities. It was initially registered as the Slowing Learning Children’s Group and later changed to Activ.
Mr Beaton said while AI had enjoyed strong growth this year, it was still expecting moderate growth for 2004-05.
“At the end of the day we take a view of Activ this way. We have nearly 1,000 people spread around the State,” he said.
“That is a geographic spread and a workforce that many businesses would give their right arms for.”
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