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Aussie business champ goes global

From repairing farm equipment on a property in South Australia’s lower Flinders Ranges to manufacturing and exporting agricultural machinery to the corn belt and rice belt States of the USA – that’s the success story of family-owned Kelly Engineering.

The Booleroo Centre business led by managing director and fifth-generation farmer Shane Kelly was named the 2010 Telstra South Australian Business of the Year. At the national Awards, it was chosen as the Telstra-MYOB Regional Business of the Year.

What is it about Kelly Engineering that is driving its growth from Australia into new markets, not just in the US but also in South Africa, New Zealand, Europe and potentially Brazil? The answer lies with its popular Diamond Disc Chain Harrow, a clever piece of farm machinery designed to offer light tillage while providing stubble management, seed-bed preparation and weed control.

Shane Kelly, whose father Peter began the family’s move into manufacturing, said: “It’s a simple and reliable piece of equipment. Rice farmers in the US say it’s the most versatile tool they’ve seen to transition their harvesting aftermath into an optimum planting environment. It’s fast, efficient and economical and helps farmers save time, labour and fuel.”

The machinery allows the farmer to return crop stubble to the soil with minimal soil disturbance. As more growers look to sustainable agriculture through low tilling, hopes are high for Kelly’s US dealership to make inroads into the wheat belt states.

Understanding the needs of farmers in different regions and evolving the designs of machinery after feedback has been crucial to Kelly Engineering which is recognised as an important local employer.

Growth and increased production takes up cashflow and Shane is looking to manage expansion in a low risk way by supplying components for fabrication in the US.

Shane Kelly’s father Peter, mother Audrey and wife Jo are also directors of the business. He said winning the Telstra Business Awards was a real confident boost at management level and for everyone else.

“People in the community have taken pride and ownership that we are up here at Booleroo Centre flying the flag like we have. We’ve received a lot of positive encouragement from rural people who say it demonstrates that good stuff comes out of the regions,” he said.

“Out of town we are more visible to a lot of people. Business and professional awareness has been fabulous. A higher level of guys in banks are coming out to see us.”

Kelly Engineering was one of many successful regional businesses recognised in the 2010 Telstra Business Awards. Others included Indigenous-owned Northern Project Contracting, the Queensland and national winner of the Sensis Social Responsibility Award, Karratha-based Handley Surveys which won the WA Panasonic Medium Business Award, and Victorian finalist and Gippsland milk processor Longwarry Food Park.

In 2011 a Telstra Regional Business Award will be introduced in each state and territory.

Shane Kelly encourages other businesses to join in the Awards experience. “The feedback you get from the entry process and the business health check is particularly handy. Networking with other businesses and personal development are real benefits that flow from the Award and I think we will end up as a better business.”

To nominate and enter the 2011 Telstra Business Awards, go to telstrabusinessawards.com or call the Telstra Business Awards Team on 1800 262 323 between 9am and 7pm AEST Monday to Friday. Entries open on 14 February 2011 and close at 5pm AEST on Monday 4 April 2011.