Boxes of love changing lives in regional SA

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By Gabrielle Hall

In a store in China, a worker carefully unpacks an order of premium Australian wine from the Clare and Barossa Valleys, turns it over in their hands and admires the quality in which it is presented in a crisp, all-natural, sustainable wooden box hand-branded with a label, and places it on a shelf for sale.

Meanwhile, 8500 kilometres away in the back streets of Clare, South Australia, 17 employees are busily going about their daily work, carefully cutting, nailing and stamping a range of custom-made wine display boxes commissioned by some of the region’s – and the world’s – most recognisable brands.

Clare Valley Enterprises chief executive officer Garry Velt with employees Chad Maxwell and Bruce Jonsson in the new Clare factory.

Among them are the premium Henschke Hill of Grace and Jim Barry Armagh – premium wines for the premium market being exported world-wide and presented in boxes made by Clare Valley and Barossa Enterprises.

It is one of SA’s great success stories, and one that is changing lives in regional communities.

Such has been the success, Clare Valley Enterprises along with its sister business Barossa Enterprises is the state’s largest regional employer of people with a disability, employing about 100 staff between them.

The Clare side of the business is now looking to double its output and employee numbers following the official opening of Clare Valley Enterprises’ new $750,000 purpose-built workshop in Clare in mid-June 2018.

Employees in the new, $750,000 Clare Valley Enterprises workshop, which will pave the way to doubling staff numbers and output.

Clare Valley Enterprises chief executive officer Garry Velt said the new production facility – also manufacturers of export-quality pallets and wine decanting and labelling services – would enable the business to expand significantly in the future.

“Although we’ve been in Clare for 20 years we now have a purpose-built facility that will enable us to service the Clare community much better,” he says.

“Underneath that, we’ll be able to employ nearly double the number of people with a disability, taking our employee numbers up to almost 30 on various shifts throughout the week, and therefore double production.

“It’s a quantum leap forward for our business, going from a conglomeration of tin sheds into a facility that allows us to work more efficiently and increase our output.”

Clare Valley Enterprises employees Mark Finn and Belinda Reid with support worker Wendy Tippet (centre).

What stands out more so, is the impact these businesses are having on people with disabilities and their families in the Clare and Barossa communities.

Long-term employees Mark Finn and Belinda Reid have worked for Clare Valley Enterprises for more than 20 years and there is barely a job in their work place they have not undertaken – they know how it runs inside out.

Mark says his job has formed a large part of his identity today, and Belinda says she had developed invaluable independence and her colleagues and support staff were “like family”.

“I wanted to achieve something and put something back into the community,” she says.

“We’re like a family really, which is really the best part of working here, the supervisors and how supportive they are makes it something I look forward to and the skills to be more independent.”

Employee Cameron Errey with Clare Valley Community Options team leader Laura Waldhuter – working alongside Clare Valley Enterprises to build life skills and independence – at the opening of the new production facility.

The pride taken in their work by all the employees is unmistakable and you can almost sense the love and care put into each and every product manufactured at the site.

It is a quality that has not gone unnoticed, and marketing and sales manager Rick Mierisch said the company had built its reputation based on quality production and premium materials.

“Our market is primarily wineries, so we understand their needs and what they’re looking for,” he says.

“First and foremost is a quality product that can display their premium wine. With the market really opened up now into China and an increased demand for export wine, we can also offer fumigated products prepared for export.

“Secondly, what they’re looking for is a sustainable product. Pretty much every winery we deal with has a focus on sustainability and resource management, so all the pine we use is plantation timber sourced from within SA, we use no dyes or glues, we do burnished branding, so it’s a completely natural product – all natural, all sustainable.”

With a 10-year plan mapped out and some exciting initiatives in the pipeline, the future is looking bright for Clare Valley Enterprises and its employees.

Visit Clare Valley Enterprises to find out more.

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