Market Forces

Brisbane Markets

Indeed, the effects of that awful flood were still being felt as we spoke at the end of 2012; Brisbane Markets Limited (BML) put in a stellar performance to have facilities operating less than three days after the 77 hectare site was inundated. Overall damages and losses across all Market based businesses were estimated at more than $100 million, composed of property damage, loss of stock and loss of vehicles, particularly more than 200 forklifts.

There is still some evidence of the damage, says Andrew. “It will probably take another six months of work before we see the end of it.” Electrical infrastructure is still being restored, and when all is finished the organisation will have dealt with in excess of two thousand flood-related invoices for BML’s site reinstatement works, worth close to $17 million. “It’s been a big exercise which has put quite a lot of pressure on the organisation in terms of extra work, but we are coming towards the end of it now.” Some of the problems – especially in the area of electrical infrastructure – have taken some time to, as it were, come to the surface and be noticed as flood related corrosion becomes evident.

BML provides infrastructure and services to facilitate the development and operation of a world-class marketing and distribution hub for fresh produce and flowers. The complex at Rocklea, 11 kilometres south of Brisbane’s CBD, houses the produce and flower markets; Brisbane MarketPlace, a public retail markets precinct; the South Gate industrial estate; and a commercial centre (post office, chemist, convenience store, seafood outlet, fast food outlets, stationer, barber, and aquarium retailer). There are 26 warehouses and five selling floor buildings with a lettable area of more than 120,000 square metres, of which more than 80,000 square metres is temperature controlled, and around 3,500 people work or do business at the Brisbane Markets on a daily basis (BML itself has nearly 70 staff to administer and maintain the site).

From BML’s perspective, trading-wise, 2012 was “a fairly difficult year for the industry,” says Andrew. It ended on a relatively positive note however, with good supplies of quality product at reasonable prices. Nonetheless, the Produce Market operated at full capacity on the wholesaling side with all tenanted areas occupied (there is always some degree of churn but a tenant leaving generally holds on to the space until finding someone to take over); a few tenants were lost in the retail precinct as a result of the floods, “so we are clawing back some ground there and we have some new space that has been brought on line,” new office space in a refurbished building that has recently been finished. Yes, Andrew says, there is some room for growth but in the current economic climate growth is more difficult than it used to be and consolidation is the main aim.

BML marked its tenth anniversary last September by opening its History Room, a bricks-and-mortar reminder of the intriguing and often controversial background to the Markets. A history task force was formed with the job of going back over 150 years, focusing on the past 70 years in particular, and the result, complete with iPads and interactive displays, is proving popular with both the produce industry and the general public.

Also in September, the complex received an international accolade for ‘Excellence in new market infrastructure,’ winning bronze at the World Union of Wholesale Markets 2012 Market Awards, held in Poland. International judges praised BML’s infrastructure upgrading projects, in particular its expanded warehousing, multi-tenant facility development, controlled temperature rooms and improved access constructed over the past four years, providing “world class business facilities” for its tenants.

The gold award went to the Barcelona Markets in Spain, while silver was won by the new Shenzhen HiGreen Wholesale Market in China. That an established facility in a developed country should come so close behind a completely new greenfield site in a developing city like Shenzhen (just across the China border from Hong Kong) denotes the significance of the award. “It’s good to know we are as good as the best the world has to offer. I have looked at many markets around the world and have often said publicly that I believe Australia’s markets are undoubtedly some of the best in the world.” Such an award backs up this statement and the constant benchmarking that BML carries out, says Andrew.

The global recognition follows a recent local accolade, with the refurbished Fresh Centre building having won the Excellence in Sustainable Building award at the Queensland Master Builders Association Brisbane 2012 Housing & Construction Awards. Andrew says it was rewarding to receive the accolades but even more rewarding for tenants who worked in collaboration with BML and its construction partners to design the facilities specific to their business requirements. Ten years after the industry took ownership of the once state-owned facilities, when BML, comprised of predominately industry shareholders, bought the site following an exhaustive tender process, “we have taken big steps in upgrading the 48-year-old site and establishing ourselves as Queensland’s most important fresh fruit, vegetable and flower hub.”

The award winning three-level commercial building, known as the Fresh Centre, has a gross floor area of 4,780 square metres. The work to bring this once dilapidated building back to life was undertaken by Wiley and Co. The sustainability award was based on the successful recycling of old building materials and the use of green design features, utilising natural lighting and the effective cooling of common areas through the unique ventilation system. The building features a ramp and lift access; café; training and meeting rooms and a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen available for hire (this is proving a huge hit, hosting corporate lunches for businesses outside the industry; product launches and industry presentations; and even standing-in as a commercial kitchen 24/7 for a fortnight for a commercial operator whose own facilities were damaged); two three-level atria providing natural light to all internal offices; and parking in the heart of the Market environment. The Fresh Centre has become the headquarters for BML and the wholesaler organisation Brismark. Tenants are being sought for the remaining office opportunities on the ground and middle floors. “It’s good to see us moving into a building that has the recognition of being sustainable because of the initiatives we put in place,” says Andrew.

Wiley and Co has also been contracted to upgrade the Brisbane Markets Commercial Centre, the row of shops and offices facing busy Sherwood Road, with work now just about complete. Works include new footpaths, painting throughout, construction of outdoor dining areas for food-service operators, a new café tenancy and a lift to service the upper level offices. “Our tenants are part of a community and a 24/7 industry hub, which provides advantages in terms of their business operations and growth, industry representation and site maintenance and development. BML’s continued commitment to upgrading of the site and the ongoing provision of services such as cleaning, waste and pest management, site security and access control, also provides tenants with a range of efficiencies and synergies, which often go unnoticed. It is however, features such as these which make Australia’s central market system such a valuable part of the supply chain for fresh produce.”

For 2013, consolidation remains the main prerequisite. But no standing still; BML has been holding workshops with tenants concerning options for redevelopment of the central trading area that could begin within 12 months, and is reviewing the master plan and further developments over the coming five years. “We are taking stock and setting the stage for the next round of review and redevelopment,” says Andrew. Keeping the Market as fresh as its produce remains the priority.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

September 26, 2018, 10:02 AM AEST