Fitzroy Powell is held in high esteem by his colleagues … in fact, the training and conference room at Australian Precast Solutions facility in Macksville bears his name.
This honour was bestowed on him because he is the longest serving employee at the plant, which has been operating since 2008.
“I’ve been in Australia for more than 10 years. I was a mason back home in Jamaica and at first it was hard to find work,” Fitzroy said.
“I was wishing for something around here and one afternoon I heard this place was gonna’ open up … I live just 10 minutes from here.
“They offered me a full-time job and I keep it … it is my food basket and a real blessing for the community.
“An opportunity like this means people can pay their bills.
“When I put this shirt on I know I’m going to work and I feel happy – I call it my ‘money shirt’ and I love it.”
Fitzroy is one of many shire residents who work at the Lendlease-owned plant.
Among them is 26-year-old Sam Miles, born and bred on a Macksville farm, who went to school at St Patrick’s and Macksville High and is now part-way through his engineering degree.
“After school I got sidetracked with footy for a while and moved to Brisbane and then I went up to the mines in Queensland.
“When I found myself back home four years ago I started here as a labourer. When management asked if anyone was interested in training as an engineer, I put my hand up.
“Now I look after the production and planning for materials on this Ballina job … I do the checks of the abutments and head stocks. And I am only a few minutes from home.”
As well as the job opportunities the plant offers, Lendlease is also involved in the community itself.
Engineering Manager, Mark Davies, said the company had donated bridge girders to Nambucca Shire Council for a bridge at Thumb Creek and had also helped renovate facilities at the lookout on the Nambucca Headland.
“We’ve also had the local Aboriginal Land Council come and do a ‘welcome to country’ ceremony on NAIDOC Day onsite,” Mark said.
While the plant is currently working on bridge components for the Pacific Highway upgrade, the facility’s future is far from finite.
“Once we finish this job, we will move onto supplying sites on the New England Highway, rail projects, West Connex and the Coffs Bypass. The future in the engineering/infrastrcuture space is frighteningly bright.”