Rapid growth for Fulton Hogan’s regional operation

Family-owned, tier-one civil contractor Fulton Hogan
“Fulton Hogan continues to be a family-owned business, and everybody feels like they belong and that they have an identity here,” says Regional Manager Vic Maggs.

Since mid-2021, Fulton Hogan Manawatu-Whanganui has been on a rapid growth journey, transforming from a small branch presence to a significant regional operation covering almost 20% of the North Island’s land area.

Before ramping up, family-owned tier-one civil contractor Fulton Hogan had maintained a branch operation in Manawatu-Whanganui for nearly 20 years, reporting to its Wellington regional office.

When Fulton Hogan Major Projects won Waka Kotahi’s $660m Te Ahu a Turanga – Manawatu Highway Project as well as the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) $85m horizontal infrastructure work at Ohakea for the new P8 aircraft, Fulton Hogan’s board decided the time was right to establish a standalone regional operation for Manawatu-Whanganui.

“It’s a region with a GDP of $11.6 billion, which is 3.8% of New Zealand’s GDP and the sixth largest in New Zealand, ahead of Hawke’s Bay, Tasman, Marlborough and Otago.”

As well as acting as an internal workforce supplier for both major projects, a key focus of the newly established regional office was constructing an asphalt plant to supply the significant amount of asphaltic concrete required for those projects.

Four hectares of rural land in the industrial-zoned area at the back of Palmerston North Airport was also purchased for the development of new yards, enabling the team to relocate from its semi-residential site and to provide room to expand without impacting neighbours.

The Whanganui branch office was retained to look after that area’s local authority projects. Regional Manager, Vic Maggs, says that prior to its establishment as a standalone Regional operation in July 2021, Manawatu-Whanganui had a complement of 25 staff.

Twenty of those original staff worked in Open Spaces management which included grass mowing and weed spraying for Whanganui District Council, Palmerston North City Council and the Manawatu NOC (Network Outcome Contract) Waka Kotahi State Highway Contract. The remaining five worked in construction.

“We now have a team of 130 staff covering everything from road maintenance, traffic and transport, asphalt production and surfacing, sprayed seals, open spaces management, drainage, pavement construction, and regional project work up to $15 million per project. We work for a diverse mix of sectors including all the local authorities in the region, Waka Kotahi, NZDF, Fonterra, KiwiRail, and the airports.”

Along with Manawatu and Whanganui, the regional office also includes Horohwenua and Rangitikei, stretching into Ruapehu and Tararua, and covering a substantial 19.5% of the North Island’s land area.

“It’s a region with a GDP of $11.6 billion, which is 3.8% of New Zealand’s GDP and the sixth largest in New Zealand, ahead of Hawke’s Bay, Tasman, Marlborough and Otago. It has a population of 285,000 and is projected to reach 380,000 by 2050. Because of the growth in population, and because the region is seen as a freight hub, the local authorities realise they need to invest in infrastructure, particularly roading.”

While supplying a workforce for the two major regional infrastructure projects was the primary catalyst for the formation of the standalone regional office, Vic says the regional office has been successful in tendering for contracts and projects, and the main focus now is supporting clients — getting the work done.

“We have had to work very hard to keep up with the pace of growth and opportunity. Clients are now seeing that we are a national civil contractor with a major presence in the region and highly motivated staff. There has also been a significant increase in investment and infrastructure work within the region.”

Fulton Hogan Manawatu-Whanganui’s long list of successful tenders includes drainage projects for Manawatu District Council and Rangitikei District Council, a road realignment contract for the Horowhenua District Council, the NZDF project at Ohakea and the new roundabout at Ohakea on SH1 for Waka Kotahi.

“We’re now in our third year of the Palmerston North City Council’s Road Maintenance Contract, and that project will also be rolled over for a further three years. We have just been awarded the Whanganui Airport runway overlay and parallel taxiway construction, as well as the three-water upgrade around Whanganui Prison for the Department of Corrections. So, we’re doing a lot of infrastructure-related projects and a lot of that is also renewing existing aging assets — whether that is paving or pipework.”

Vic says undertaking a diverse range of projects requires a diverse skill base, and the 130-strong team is drawn from a broad range of backgrounds, industries and businesses.

“Only a very few staff have come from other tier-one contractors in the region. While we do all our projects in-house, we also use a 35%-40% subcontractor component in everything we do. We like to give back to the community in terms of the local market and supporting smaller contractors and suppliers as much as we can.”

“We also do a lot of work with iwi and other community groups to help disadvantaged people get back into the workforce. We have an Infrastructure Skills Programme where candidates are drawn mainly from the Ministry of Social Development. We interview the candidates, ensure they are drug and alcohol-free, and put them on a four-week training course.”

At the end of that course, they have the skills to come into our industry for further growth and development.

“Fulton Hogan continues to be a family-owned business, and everybody feels like they belong and that they have an identity here. People can choose to work anywhere but I think that people who work for Fulton Hogan want to be here because they want to make a difference, and belong to something that is really special.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2023 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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