More rough rides than smooth on Industry Street
More rough rides than smooth on Industry Street

Industry Street and Trade Road in the heart of Malaga have seen both the highs and lows as WA's economy has fluctuated in recent years.

Home to factories, workshops, small family businesses and the odd lunch bar, the streets are - as their names suggest - typical of industrial areas in Perth.

But the stories behind each door differ greatly, as shown in a visit to the area this week.

Some companies linked to the resource industry continue to thrive but others have downsized or shut, with the profusion of "for lease" notices a sign of the times.

At 18 Industry Street, Craig Whiteside is going through the devastating process of winding down his business, which his father started 63 years ago.

Blue Star Products, which makes wooden 21st birthday keys, employed 25 people in 2000 but only Mr Whiteside and wife Glenys remain.

"It's taken a long time to make this decision but we can no longer manufacture in Australia," he said. "We can't compete because of the products coming from overseas.

"We are still weighing up whether to start sourcing from overseas or winding down altogether.

"Market conditions are terrible, retail has fallen off the cliff and people aren't buying discretionary items any more, and we come under that category.

"There's a lot of history here but we'll just disappear as a statistic."

At 29 Industry Street, Jim Collier sits in a quiet office doing the accounts - as he has since letting his accounts manager go.

"In the old days, I wouldn't even be talking to you because the phone would be ringing off the hook," he said.

Mr Collier, whose company Able Business Machines sells and repairs printers, faxes and copiers, downsized two years ago to keep his company afloat.

"It's a general trend," he said. "If you look around Malaga, you can see all the places that have closed.

"In the past two years we've had four or five clients go broke on us.

"I get the feeling the pinch is happening. Things are slowing."

For Nathan Murray, managing director of Hi-Temp Services, his sales of refrigeration and air-conditioning have slowed dramatically in the past six months.

He said effects from the falling iron ore price were already being felt, with Fortescue Metals Group cancelling a contract extension that was to start this week.

"There seems to be uncertainty," he said. "I think people have got money in their pockets, they're just not willing to spend it."

Mr Murray said there was a misconception in the Eastern States that everyone in Perth was enjoying benefits from the boom.

"People think we are all filthy rich because of the mining boom," he said. "They have no idea.

"I'm fighting a deli to pay me $120 for servicing their fridge. They can't afford to pay me because the office upstairs laid off 200 people and now there's no one to sell lunches to. It's a ripple effect."

Metres away, Bullock sales representative Ben Turner, who sells air-conditioning, insulation and industrial equipment, is run off his feet. "We're doing a lot of jobs for the government, such as the new hospital, so it's been crazy busy," he said.

And Brian Tooze, who owns an engineering machine shop further down Industry Street, said he was "busy as hell" thanks to demand from the North West.

Business is also booming at Golden West Ice at 9 Industry Street, because of constant demand from supermarkets.

"The demand for ice is greater in WA than in any other State, so business is steady," development manager Stephen Boston said.

But for every success story, there is a struggle to keep afloat.

Raymond White, who has a workshop at 21 Trade Road, is one of the last local painters and polishers. He has branched out into wishing wells he hires out for weddings.

"A lot of guys on Industry Road have closed down, so I'm picking up work from that," he said. "But it is slow and it is becoming harder to get payments from people."

Trade Road blindmaker Terry Berishon said cheap imports were taking their toll on his business.

"The lights went off in 2008-09 and it hasn't picked up since then," he said. "But I've been doing this since I was 14 and I'll survive."

The West Australian

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