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For one of Australia’s Export Heroes, the keys to success in manufacturing lie in two places: the kids and Asia.

Barry Thomas, the managing director of Cook Medical Australia is passionate about his role mentoring the young interns and employees who will help lead the company forward into growing markets.

“We are committed to Australian manufacturing and are actively campaigning to support the future of Australian manufacturing and the correlating skills of the Australian workforce,” he says.

Cook Medical Australia, based in Brisbane, has pioneered medical devices now commonly used to perform minimally invasive medical procedures around the world. The Brisbane manufacturing facility is the company’s Asia Pacific headquarters, employing over 450 staff locally and almost 900 across the region.

Approximately 88 percent of items manufactured by Cook Medical in Australia are exported globally, to the tune of almost $73 million in 2012.

Thomas joined the company in 2001, saying he was keen to be part of an organisation that fosters innovation.

This innovation isn’t limited to producing new technology, with Thomas creating a Young Leaders program to complement Cook Medical’s internship program.

“When people graduate from university they are tertiary educated and usually have limited real-life business experience and knowledge of how the professional and manufacturing world operates,” he says.

“Fostering strong leadership is a key priority at Cook Medical and our focus when we launched the Young Leaders and internship programs was to mentor and develop the pioneers of the future.”

Thomas believes the internship program is so successful because interns are paid, with a high percentage also going on to work full time at the company. He says this fostering of emerging talent is key in order to prepare the company for the future.

For Thomas, who was named an Export Hero by the Australian Institute of Export and joined the Queensland India Council last year, this future lies in Asia.

“We are in the midst of the Asian Century and India is a market which presents a great deal of future opportunities for Australian manufacturers and businesses alike,” he says.

“The culture in India is very different to that in Australia and before I joined the Queensland India Council, I had a limited understanding of India and I was keen to gain more insights about the culture, business processes and to make new connections.”

The council provides advice to the Treasurer and Minister for State Development and Trade on investment, education, science, tourism, and cultural issues relevant to the state’s relationship with India.

Thomas has never been happier in his role. He says, “I’m passionate about exporting in Asia, and I’m attracted to the challenge that it presents. It’s the new frontier and it’s very exciting to see how Australia adapts its business structures to export into Asia.”

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Gina Baldassarre

Gina Baldassarre

Gina is a journalist at Dynamic Business. She enjoys learning to ice skate and collecting sappy inspirational quotes.

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