Businesses like Link Cold Storage and Transport have been able to grow because of the strength of Wangaratta’s micro-economy. The operation has been able to grow because small niche suppliers are basing themselves in the area, as a result of the quality-of-life available there.
Wangaratta is a relatively small town with some larger ones nearby like Wodonga, but it is big enough to have all the essential services the locals need and to be a pleasant community in which to live. A strong local economy also helps in keeping younger people in the region and working in the growing businesses.
The local population is growing, with housing being built around the town. New industrial land has been released for businesses relocating to the Wangaratta. For most people in the town their commute is just five minutes.
“In this area there are a lot of other small suppliers who require cold storage and refrigerated transport,” says Simon Frazer who set up the Link operation with his wife Anna-Lisa. “The initial freezer soon became overloaded and the business moved across the road, where we built a larger freezer and a chiller. It only took a further 12 months to fill the facility and the business had to look for and found a larger property on which to build a serious cold store facility.”
Currently, the Link facility has a large chiller, but a blast freezer is about to be built on the same site. The company has also held on to its old cold storage facility, which they use as a backup when things get very busy, and they do.
“We had concentrated on just a few customers and then realised that in this area there are a lot of small boutique businesses like wineries, cheese producers, butter-makers, all these small pocket businesses,” says Simon. “We went to see these businesses and told them that we understood that their produce was taking three or four days to get to Melbourne. We introduced a more personalised service, so typically, we will pick up from them in the afternoon and it will be delivered before lunch in Melbourne on the next day. It can be anything from one box is the middle of the city and up.
“We had a small van which ran around and did this and it has been a runaway success. I initially told the customers we would try it out for three months and if it didn’t work out, we would get out of it. They have all supported us, extended now from one small van to two vans and a small rigid fridge truck. Anything too big for the rigids can be picked up by our semis.”
This kind of bespoke service which is adaptable to the small local business’ needs that Link provides allows the smaller niche businesses to compete on a more level playing field with big city rivals. The trucks cover the region as far north as Griffith, nearly 300 km away and have managed to acquire both outward distribution and inward collection in these areas.
Loads can vary in size from a full trailer for Woolworths, down to a single box delivery out of a van into Collins St in Melbourne’s CBD. The variety of products is very wide, but 60 per cent of the work comes from full loads out of the larger suppliers, with the loads stored at the Link facility before being made up into orders for distribution to end customers like the IGA stores in the region.
Some customers, like restaurants, also make purchases with Melbourne specialist suppliers and the operation can pick that kind of product up for the Wangaratta area clients and bring it back and deliver it to them. There seems to be quite a few companies who are moving out of the cities and into the country, where Link has been able to support them. Being able to handle their exports has also been useful.