The family-owned boat manufacturing business Yamba Welding and Engineering (YWE) announced it’s acquisition by The Whiskey Project Group, last week.
For over forty years YWE founder Bill Collingburn has seen his business evolve into a thriving operation employing 36 locals and numerous apprentices.
During the past 10 years YWE has delivered over 200 watercraft for police, Marine Rescue, Coast Guard, VMR, other government agencies and more recently, the Australian Defence Force and Australian Border Force.
Over the years, Bill and his partner Kathie have invested in their staff, their community and the region’s future.
New owners, The Whiskey Project Group is led by two former Royal Australian Navy veterans who are committed to upskilling their workforce and supporting veterans’ transition into the workforce.
YWE and naval architecture firm Naiad have joined sister company The Whiskey Project to form The Whiskey Project Group – a 100% owned Australian watercraft design and manufacturing company.
(In a media release last week) Mr Collingburn said that he’s now in his seventies and he wanted to hand over the reins to people he likes and trusts.
“The Whiskey Project Group are experienced maritime operators, they share my vision for the future, and they are whole-heartedly committed to the continued growth of YWE and the Clarence Valley’s maritime industry,” Mr Collingburn said.
Mr Collingburn, now a shareholder in The Whiskey Project Group, is staying on with YWE as a Technical Advisor as the business moves into its next phase.
“The local community has supported YWE for many years, and we in turn, need to keep supporting them. I have no doubt that under the guidance of The Whiskey Project Group, YWE will continue to play a significant role in seeing this region prosper as it deserves to,” he said.
The Whiskey Project Group Co-founder and Chief Operating officer Ryan Carmichael told the Independent that their focus at present, is in managing the transition (of the business).
“(We’re) creating stability and reassurance to the team and to the Yamba community that supports YWE,” Mr Carmichael said.
“That’s where you get to really understand the business and see where the opportunities are for growth,” he said.
Mr Carmichael said that the background of The Whiskey Project Group has been very Defence focused.
“There are a significant number of Defence small watercraft projects that are coming up on the horizon that the Federal Government announced in July – nearly five-billion dollars’ worth of small craft to be purchased for the Australian Defence Force in the next 10 years,” Mr Carmichael said.
“We want to do all the groundwork to prepare the group and in particular YWE, to be able to respond to the biggest of those opportunities that come up,” he said.
When asked about the current location of the business in the Yamba Industrial Estate, Mr Carmichael issued the following statement.
“The Whiskey Project Group’s priority is to optimise the YWE business where it stands today, and in doing so help secure the future of this region and our new Yamba family. We have identified substantial growth potential which will offer further significant jobs and training opportunities for the local workforce, and when the time comes we’ll work hand in hand with our community to explore the best options to support this. We are incredibly grateful for the support that has already been shown to us and are very much looking forward to working with this great community.”
Mr Carmichael went on to say. “We’ll primarily be manufacturing design capabilities that will grow. It will be a skilled labour workforce and looking at defence manufacturing opportunities working with the training colleges, the TAFEs, naval ship building and the likes to explore how we can support more apprenticeships and training opportunities to grow the skills base, here in the Clarence Valley.
“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to be here and we’re proud of this announcement. We’ve worked very closely with Bill over a period of time to achieve this.
“We’ve got a fantastic, proud existing customer base that sings nothing but praise of the products and of Bill and the staff and what they do. We hope to continue that legacy and grow with the opportunities,” he said.