Family firm’s proud history in Manawatu – Higgins Family Holdings
“We currently have our mobile concrete plant on the top of the Tararua Ranges and about to start supplying concrete for the new wind farm development.”
Steeped in Manawatu’s history, Higgins Family Holdings’ roots began 62 years ago when Dan Higgins founded Higgins Contractors in Palmerston North as a drainage and road repair business.
Joined by his three sons, Pat, Michael and Bernard, the business expanded into areas of civil construction, the manufacture and supply of aggregates, concrete and bitumen.
Growing to be at the forefront of New Zealand’s infrastructure, the business, apart from the concrete business along with some land and buildings, was sold to Fletchers in 2016.
Higgins Family Holdings now owns and operates Higgins Concrete along with many of the buildings and sites leased by Fletchers and a wide range of other commercial, rural and residential developments throughout Manawatu.
Included in its portfolio of properties is Manawatu Industrial Park on the outskirts of Palmerston North Airport.
Encompassing 42 hectares, the park is largely undeveloped with Higgins Family Holdings undertaking specialised design and lease projects with clients wanting to base themselves close to a road/rail and air transport hub. One such project is a new retail outlet for Norwood NZ.
Remaining a true family operation, Bernard has the role of Board Chairman, while 3rd generation family members Shane and his cousin Grant are company directors looking after day-to-day operations.
While Grant looks after building and land development, Shane has responsibility for the concrete business. Both Bernard and Shane have sons in the business, with other family members likely to join the business in the future.
An independent supplier of concrete, in the Manawatu, Higgins Concrete has plants in Pal-merston North and Feilding with other plants scattered around the lower North Island, as well as one in Auckland and one in Nelson.
Producing concrete and delivering it to clients, Higgins Concrete works with anyone from homeowners paving their backyard through to commercial contractors undertaking major inner city and urban projects, and everything in between.
“We currently have our mobile concrete plant on the top of the Tararua Ranges and about to start supplying concrete for the new wind farm development.
“That’s a mercury Energy project and we’re subcontracting to Downer New Zealand to pour concrete down the foundation holes.
“From a layman’s point of view we’re continuing on from the existing windmills along the ranges to the south. In the end there will be an additional 60 or so new windmills.
“In Wellington we’re supplying concrete into major inner city construction that local contractor LT McGuiness is leading.”
Across both concrete and property development operations, Higgins Family Holdings employs around 150 staff, some of whom have been part of the business for over 40 years.
Reflecting on what has underpinned the business’ success over the years Shane has no doubt that strong family values and culture are at its heart.
“We’re heavily involved in the business and engage with our people all the time. The staff like the fact that family work in the business and they can talk to any of us—the same applies to our customers.
“We have a lot of repeat business from our customers. While the concrete business has only been going since the ‘70s – relationships with some of our clients were established well before that.
“We hang our reputation on our quality of product and the service we consistently deliver to our clients.
“If we say we will be there at 8am we will be there at 8am .”
When Covid-19’s level four lockdown was announced the first thing the Higgins family did was reassure their staff that they would be looked after by paying them 100% of their normal 40 hour weekly wage.
“We supported them through that period and every one has come back—in fact everyone was wanting to come back before they could come back. We had lots of emails and phone calls from our staff saying thanks very much—they appreciated it.”
Shane says, while there has been some talk of a slowing down in the construction sector, they have not seen any evidence of that.
“We’re employing more staff because we are short—so from our point of view nothing has changed.
“We’ve always been a bit short of staff and we’re just trying to get a bit more free board because everyone has been under so much pressure.
“We’re busy in the concrete side of the business and on the development side we had a tender in the market for our own workshop and office development at the industrial Park before Lockdown and we’ve decided to push on with that project. Construction of that will be starting shortly.”
Higgins Family Holdings was one of a number of business organisations in the Manawatu invited to attend the Covid-19recovery meeting called by Mayor Grant Smith.
“The message was one of positivity and advocating the use of local businesses as part of the recovery and rebuild plan. That was easy for us because that is what we have always done anyway.”