02/05/2013 - 15:29

ECM stays ahead of the game

02/05/2013 - 15:29


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For Perth-based contractor ECM, reports of a slowdown in mining and LNG project construction were little cause for concern.

ECM managing director Simon Higgins and chairman Michael Hender have worked towards diversifying the company (Photo: Grant Currall)

For Perth-based contractor ECM, reports of a slowdown in mining and LNG project construction were little cause for concern.

Managing director Simon Higgins said ECM had invested considerable time and effort in diversifying from its roots as an electrical contracting company in the knowledge that the good times would not last forever.

“Anyone who’s only thinking about diversification now is probably two years behind the game,” Mr Higgins told Business News.

“I’m not saying the horse has bolted but we’ve been looking at this for a little while – using the good times that we’ve experienced, using that time and that momentum to become more diverse because nothing’s going to last forever.

“You’ve got to think outside the box and you probably should have been thinking outside the box a couple of years ago, which is what we think we were doing.”

ECM expanded into the structural, mechanical and piping sector with the acquisition of Kwinana-based Press Construction Group in 2010.

The company was recognised as a Business News Rising Star last year, on the back of a rapid increase in staff numbers.

More recently, ECM has turned its attention towards servicing the requirements of plant infrastructure through preventative and reactive maintenance solutions.

The company has also sought to maintain its high levels of growth.

“We see a 20 per cent figure in a nice controlled way ahead of us for the next five or six years,” Mr Higgins said.

“The visibility for us has never been greater. Where that takes us, is it puts us across more of the market.

“Among some doom and gloom we feel pretty good about the future at this stage, to be honest.”

ECM expanded into Queensland late last year with the opening of a new office in Murarrie, in Brisbane’s eastern suburbs, and has since secured work in the state’s coal seam gas sector.

Mr Higgins said the company had also recently secured a long-term contract on a “major LNG project” in Western Australia, with a further boost in staff numbers on the cards as a result.

“We’re looking at new work of about $250 million,” he said.

“Our order book’s fairly healthy so we’re expecting to ramp up our (staff) numbers beyond 800 over the next six months.

“The availability of labour is a bit easier for us at the moment; we’re not finding it very hard to place people, which is positive.”

Analysts BIS Shrapnel this week declared the engineering construction boom was “over”, predicting that by 2016-17 construction activity would be 20 per cent below its imminent peak.

WA would be among the biggest losers, with civil work set to fall by around $10 billion.

While some contractors have flagged turning their focus towards securing work on government infrastructure projects, Mr Higgins said he did not see this as the answer.

“You’ve got to be more diverse than that,” he said.

“Relying on government spend when in effect the government is in a similar situation to us is not the best thing to hang your hat on.”


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