Saturday 14 December 2019

Declan White: From Irish backpacker to €35m construction firm

A Wexford man has struck gold in boom-time Oz

Declan White (Photo: Monford Group)
Declan White (Photo: Monford Group)

David Looby

A 30-YEAR-OLD Wexford construction worker has created a €35m construction company in Australia.

Declan White, originally from Fethard on Sea, has turned his time Down Under building a business into a construction juggernaut within six years.

White arrived in Western Australia in 2008 and launched a company called Monford Group in 2010.

In just four years, it has a turnover of Aus$50m (€34.7m) in the 12 months to June 30 and now employs 180 people in six offices across the country.

Mr White studied construction management at Limerick Institute of Technology before emigrating.

In an interview with a national newspaper, Mr White said: 'The downturn was starting to creep in when I left in 2008. We were on a job in Dublin where I was working as an engineer and there were a lot of rows between subcontractors trying to get money. I could see the economy was starting to turn and decided to get out.'

Mr White was one of thousands of Irish to emigrate to Australia but he has been among the most successful.

He was made supervisor after a month and became the project manager.

'I moved from that to a mine site in Karatha (1,545 kilometres from Western Australia's capital, Perth). When the contract finished up there, I decided to start my own company and try to pick up some work on that project. It was a $30bn project, so there was loads of work there,' he said.

The contractor knew that Mr White had done a good job as project manager for the company that had previously held the contract.

The most remarkable part of his early success was that there were no banks involved.

'It came down to supply and demand at the time. The project needed a supply of workers and I put up a good negotiation on payment terms. I had $50,000 saved in the bank, which would have covered the wages for less than a week, so I told the contractor 'I'm going to pay the lads every two weeks, so you have to pay me every two weeks.'

The 40 people he originally employed in Karatha are still working for Monford and the company has almost five times as many employees now.

'The boys on the ground are the core team that recruits for me. They bring in their friends or their cousins or their brothers.'

The Monford Group is also very much plugged into the general Irish community in Perth. It sponsors local Gaelic football and hurling teams and donates to an Irish theatre company, the local St Patrick's Day Parade and the Claddagh Association Irish welfare group.

Although there has been a downturn in the construction business in Australia, so far it has not affected Monford.

"I always knew I'd have my own construction company; how big it was going to be I didn't know,' Mr White said.

Wexford People

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