The businessmen from the Emerald Isle have done it again. In 2009, Irishmen Pat Tallon and James Fitzgerald acquired Civmec from the VDM Group after spotting a gap in the market for a multi-disciplined construction and engineering service provider. From its waterfront base at the Australian Marine Complex just south of Perth in Henderson, Western Australia, the “new Civmec”, as Pat refers to it, found itself quickly working with multinationals, such as BHP Billiton and Chevron Australia, in the oil and gas and metals and minerals industries. 

When the company was listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) in 2012, Pat was appointed CEO and James the Executive Chairman. As Civmec expanded its presence in Western Australia, it began to capitalise on the opportunities present in infrastructure; current projects include the Perth Stadium and Elizabeth Quay precinct, also in the state’s capital.

Heading east

Now firmly established in the west, the last 2 years have seen Civmec turn its attention to opportunities in the east. “We looked across Australia to see where we could strategically grow,” Pat says. “Our west coast operation has been very busy, with significant mining projects going on, however, as the oil and gas projects started to wind down, we decided to explore other areas.” 

Pat Tallon, CEO of Civmec
Image: David Broadway

Having established an east coast presence, we plan to develop it and create something similar to what we have on the west coast. – Pat Tallon

In 2016 Civmec announced the purchase of Forgacs in Newcastle, New South Wales. “Having established an east coast presence, we plan to develop it and create something very similar to what we have on the west coast,” he says.

As with its West Australian operation, the company has wasted no time settling in and is already involved in most of the major infrastructure projects currently underway in Sydney. “We’re working in either supply or construction on the Sydney Light Rail, the WestConnex, and the Pacific Highway upgrade. We also recently delivered installations of the precast sections for a new Eastern Distributor bridge,” he says.

“Historically, our clients have been the Rio Tintos and Woodsides of the world,” he admits. “So to have secured the confidence of a new range of clients so quickly is a reflection of the amount of effort that all our people have put in.”

Good defence

As well as offering 23 hectares of waterfront land, Forgacs offered another crucial selling point. “Only 6 months earlier we’d announced our entry into the defence sector and Forgacs has a strong name as a delivery partner for the Department of Defence,” he explains. “In terms of the defence sector, our ultimate goal is to be part of future naval acquisition programs,” he continues. 

Although South Australia is destined to be awarded a large share of the work, Pat feels that Civmec, with Forgacs as a subsidiary, presents an attractive offering: “Especially considering our waterfront locations on both the west and east coast, combined with Forgacs’ history of involvement in defence projects and Civmec’s track record of delivering projects in every sector,” he says.

“We want to let the designers, the other builders and the Department of Defence know that we’re here and interested in being involved in the future program.”

The right team

Acutely aware of the dangers of “spreading yourself too thin,” as he phrases it, Pat is ensuring that Civmec has the right team to accompany its current growth trajectory. “We’re trying to organically bring people through who have been with us for a while and also introduce new people that have the right fit and the right culture.”

Pat Tallon, CEO of Civmec with workers
Image: David Broadway

At the end of the day it’s the men and women on the ground who are the ones actually delivering the product, everyone else is there to support them. – Pat Tallon

Pat’s early training as an apprentice carpenter with the Irish Defence Forces has undoubtedly contributed to his belief that “you cannot develop a construction site while sitting in an office.”

“We all hold important roles but at the end of the day it’s the men and women on the ground who are the ones actually delivering the product,” he says, adding that, “everyone else is there to support them.”

Constant communication

Pat says good communication with his employees is of high priority. “We have regular updates with our employees, we recognise success and we help resolve issues,” he explains. It’s a philosophy he applies across all stakeholder relationships. 

“I think it’s essential to constantly talk to people, tell them the truth. Construction is a fast-moving industry and things change. The best way to manage any problems that arise is to have a good relationship with your client, supplier, subcontractor and employees to ensure together we deliver what the client wants.

“The overall goal is to be the supplier of choice for our clients and the employer of choice for our people,” he concludes. It’s a target Civmec appears to be reaching from coast
to coast.