22/05/2013 - 09:51

Building on experience

22/05/2013 - 09:51

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Experienced Perth property executive Evan Campbell has jumped on board an emerging north-west homes builder, hoping to help it capitalise on a still-buoyant market in the resources region.

Mr Campbell was employed by Mirvac until earlier this year, with past roles including chief executive for WA, and will draw on his 21-year history with the national developer in his new business development role with privately owned Thomas Building.

The downturn in the mining sector was a contributing factor that led to Mr Campbell’s departure from Mirvac, as that saw his most recent role as leader of resource partnerships bundled into the company’s residential business line.

Mirvac’s earlier move from having state-based to national roles had already left little room for an executive in WA, given that 80 per cent of the company’s business takes place on the east coast.

Mr Campbell’s contacts and experience are now benefiting Thomas Building, with Mr Campbell joining the company as a director and shareholder.

Thomas Building was founded by former Rapley Wilkinson managing director Alan Thomas, who left and set up his own business in 2011 after listed company Nomad Building Solutions acquired Rapley Wilkinson.

In the two years since founding the company, which included teaming up with previous Rapley Wilkinson colleague Greg Cran, Mr Thomas has focused solely on construction in the north-west of WA.

The business has grown to now employing 11 full-time staff and Mr Thomas said he had been “astounded and delighted” at the amount of business it had been able to secure.

His decision to focus on construction in the north-west was simple. “It’s what I know,” Mr Thomas told Business News.

“I’d have trouble knowing how to go about building 200 houses in Perth but I could definitely do it in Port Hedland,” he said.

Mr Thomas has a long history in the north-west, which began as an apprentice with Rapley Wilkinson, aged 21.

Mr Thomas said the introduction of Mr Campbell’s experience with Mirvac was complementary to his construction background and would help expand operations throughout regional WA, particularly in the north-west.

Despite the acknowledged easing of housing demand in locations such as Port Hedland and Karratha, both Mr Campbell and Mr Thomas are confident there is ample opportunity for the business to continue to grow.

“It was only 12 months ago that the market was overheated and people were complaining about rents and that you couldn’t get housing in Karratha or Port Hedland,” Mr Campbell said.

“There will be (continued) demand for new housing and the people that are occupying some of the existing housing, which may be inferior, will gravitate towards better quality housing.”

Mr Thomas believes the market is simply “normalising”, which is a blessing for those operating in the north-west and at the mercy of skyrocketing costs.

“Costs will never come down in our industry but what is happening is that they’re just levelling off – they’re not increasing,” he said.

Mr Thomas’ goal is to have the company double in size in the next three years, both on revenue and staffing indications.

He said the state government’s investment in initiatives such as Pilbara Cities was creating an opportunity for long-term residents to consider locations such as Karratha as desirable places to live and bring up families.

Thomas Building would leverage off that to secure owner-occupier contracts.

The company also has a focus on commercial construction. It is working on a 108 self-contained unit development in Karratha for Greenvalley Asset and recently completed a 13-house development for the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation.

 

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