John and Denis Wagner prior to the runway construction of their Wellcamp Brisbane West Airport
John and Denis Wagner prior to the runway construction of their Wellcamp Brisbane West Airport

Homegrown success cemented with award

TOOWOOMBA'S Wagner family, who grew a single concreting plant 30 years ago into a multinational company, have been honoured with Queensland's top business award.

The Wagners - including brothers John, Denis, Neill and Joe - were last night inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame at a gala event at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The award was in recognition of the Wagners' key role in completing challenging infrastructure projects nationally and internationally, including Wellcamp Airport near Toowoomba.

Wellcamp was the first public airport built in Australia in the past half-century.

The firm also has taken on many international construction projects, including in subzero temperatures in Sakhalin, Russia.

Wagners non-executive director John Wagner said the family was humbled by the induction into the hall of fame and paid tribute to the company's employees.

Past inductees include Golden Circle, The Courier-Mail, Defiance Flour and the Ray White Group.

"We started with one concreting plant in 1989 and now are a multinational operation," John Wagner said.

"We are still proudly a regionally headquartered company."

Wagners chairman John Wagner at the Wellcamp Brisbane West Airport
Wagners chairman John Wagner at the Wellcamp Brisbane West Airport

The family last year listed its cement and construction materials business on the stock market after raising almost $200 million in an initial public offering.

They retain 55 per cent of the listed company.

Wagner said the family's infrastructure business continued to expand, including a new $51 million bulk-material port at Pinkenba.

The family also was interested in bidding for the construction of the second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek.

"We have shown you can build a business in a regional area," Wagner said.

"When you get four brothers together who have the same goals and are aligned, it is a powerful thing."

Other inductees into the hall of fame last night included social entrepreneur Therese Rein, filmmaker George Miller, Domino's, north Queensland mining entrepreneur John Moffat (1841-1918) and George Marchant (1859-1941), an English-born migrant who established Australia's largest soft- drink maker in the 19th century.

Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame is sponsored by QUT Business School, State Library of Queensland and the Queensland Library Foundation. The Courier-Mail is a media partner for the event.


George Merchant Business Leaders Hall of Fame Credit: State Library of Queensland
George Merchant Business Leaders Hall of Fame Credit: State Library of Queensland

GEORGE Marchant arrived in Brisbane as a penniless young man in 1874 and not only built a soft-drinks empire but left a philanthropic legacy.

Born in England in 1857, Marchant left school aged 10 and arrived in Brisbane where he found work as a carter for a soft-drink factory.

In 1886 he opened his own soft-drink and cordial factory in Spring Hill.

He soon obtained a competitive advantage with the invention of a method of sealing soft-drink bottles to extend their shelf life.

He also came up with a new bottling machine that accelerated production.

Marchant later opened factories in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Newcastle, becoming the country's largest soft-drinks producer.

He was ahead of his time on many social and industrial issues, employing women in his factories against the wishes of the unions and awarding bonuses out of company profits.

He was also a noted philanthropist, with his charitable gifts including Marchant Park at Chermside and Wheller Gardens, an aged-care facility in the same suburb.

His philanthropic legacy to Queensland exceeds $100 million in today's money.


THE maker of iconic films including Mad Max, Babe and Happy Feet was born in Chinchilla and his early life was enriched by the storytelling of his Greek parents.

He studied to become a doctor, and combined a medical practice with filmmaking until the completion of Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior) in 1981.

Films by the Oscar-winning director, screenwriter and producer have grossed over $1 billion at the box office.


John Moffat
John Moffat

SCOTTISH-born John Moffat arrived in Queensland in 1862 and initially worked as a shepherd and store owner before seeking his fortune in the tin mines of north Queensland. Moffat soon became one of the country's leading mining magnates, controlling 100 companies with interests in tin, silver, lead, zinc and coal.

A multitude of mining towns sprung up around his ventures.


Therese Rein
Therese Rein

THERESE Rein built her company Ingeus into the third-largest welfare-to-work service provider in Australia.

By 2007, when the Australian business was sold, it was generating $175 million in revenue and employing 1200 people in Australia, Britain, France and Germany.

By 2011, Ingeus was the largest provider of work-to-welfare services in the UK.

Rein's insights were shaped by the experience of her father who was involved in an aircraft crash in World War II that confined him to a wheelchair.


DOMINO'S Pizza Enterprises is the largest pizza chain in Australia, with more than 600 stores and is the largest franchisee for US-based Domino's Pizza Inc.

Don Meij, who became chief executive in 2002, entered the pizza industry in the late 1980s as a delivery driver for Silvio's.

In 1993, Silvio's acquired the Australian franchise for Domino's and in 1995 merged the two businesses.

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