DARRYL Hockey says he knew he was on to a good thing when his phone began to ring non-stop.
Mr Hockey is co-ordinator of the fledgling Henderson Alliance, a band of small to medium-sized enterprises at the Australian Marine Complex eager to ensure they are not forgotten when work from the Federal Government’s $89 billion worth of naval shipbuilding programs is distributed.
Seventeen local companies are currently on the alliance, with more in talks to join.
“It’s continuing to gain traction,” Mr Hockey said.
“We’ve got a lot of hope for the defence industry contracts but as time has gone on and information has come out about how those contracts will work, there has been some anxiety that there won’t be as much work for small and medium enterprises as was originally envisaged.”
Part of the $89b worth of work includes the $50b submarine program helmed by French firm DCNS, a frigate program worth $35b and a $3b offshore patrol vessel program set to move from Adelaide to WA in 2020.
International firms including DCNS and German industrial giant ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems talked up local supplier and fabricator involvement during the submarine tender process.
In May last year, the former State Government offered 16 small and medium-sized businesses a share in $350,000 to enable them to improve their competitiveness and secure work related to the defence programs.
Mr Hockey, strategic partnership manager at IKAD Engineering, said the alliance was working to ensure all the talk was more than “lip service”.
“We don’t want to be critical and we don’t want to be complainants but we do want to something positive for small businesses,” he said.
Mr Hockey said informal talks with government and business agencies had taken place. More official meetings will be held once the alliance has a concrete plan.