BOOM TIME: Jason McPherson’s CPM Engineering is one of the many Gympie businesses taking advantage of the Queensland mining boom.
BOOM TIME: Jason McPherson’s CPM Engineering is one of the many Gympie businesses taking advantage of the Queensland mining boom. Renee Pilcher

Boom helps businesses

THE mining boom is reaching into Gympie and generating millions of dollars and huge opportunities for employment and growth in a handful of Gympie-based businesses proactively chasing contracts far afield.

Leading the charge is Jason McPherson and his steel fabrication outfit, CPM Engineering, which was a one-man show operating from the back of a ute seven years ago, but now has a string of contracts with mining giants like Rio Tinto and a wages bill alone of $3.5 million a year.

Coal seam gas mining has been the goose that laid the golden egg in an otherwise sluggish economic climate for CPM and a number of other local fabrication, welding and hydraulic businesses such as

Widgee Welding, Gympie Welding Works, Wide Bay Hydraulics and Blackwoods, to name a few.

CPM Engineering experienced 39% growth last year.

Mr McPherson now employs 60 people, including 12 apprentices, to supply components for exploration drill rigs in the mining industry and is in the process of doubling his production space and introducing an extra shift to meet his deadlines.

The annual number of CSG wells drilled in Queensland has increased from 10 in the early 1990s to almost 600 last financial year and there is no end in sight to the boom, with an increasing global demand for gas.

Ask farmers about the CSG industry and many worry it's a threat to Queensland's agricultural future, but Mr McPherson says it has unlimited potential for generating jobs in Gympie and boosting the economy, particularly with the close proximity of the Tiaro coal measures currently under exploration.

"I don't know the answer to finding the right balance on controlling the impact on the environment and mining but until we can work it out we need to make hay while the sun shines," he said.

"You have got to put your name in front of the mining industry.

"Gympie is on the fringe of the coal seam gas activity but (CPM has) got 17,000 man hours (of work) in front of us directly from the gas fields.

"It's a three-year cycle from when you start talking to the company until you get work from them.

"If I get 10% of the work from the companies I have been talking to over the past seven years I am going to have to triple the size of my staff."

Mr McPherson said there were some massive mining expos coming up across Australia and these could be an opportunity for a range of Gympie businesses to begin that same process.

"I would like to see a forum of Gympie businesses at these mining expos," he said.

"I'm interested in steel, but what's to stop the bloke down the road with a photocopying business from coming along too and getting on board?"