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by Caitlin McArthur
From humble beginnings building machines on a dirt floor in Wakool in late 1980 Grizzly Engineering has been through many good times and hard times to grow into Australia’s largest manufacturer and exporter of disc ploughs.
Started by Wendy McAllister and Bruce Poltrock in 1980, the Grizzly Tandem Offset Disc Plough came about when Bruce was working as a farmhand in Wakool when he had a better idea for the plough he was using.
With some trust from the machine’s owner, Bruce was given permission to cut up the new plough and turn it into the world first Grizzly design which revolutionised disc ploughs by giving farmers easier machines to pull, better cut out of weeds, straight pulling, strength and reliability not seen before.
Wendy became the sole owner of Grizzly with support from her husband Chris Bell.
Soon after followed a rapid growth in the business leading to an expansion that included another factory in Bundaberg QLD and a dealer network that grew to over 130 dealerships across Australia.
“When we started the business I used to answer calls as Wendy the receptionist and transfer the calls to Wendy the Boss” she recalls giving one of her trademark laughs that echo through the newly expanded factory on Sea Lake Road.
Never one to be shy Wendy has always stood strong in the Agribusiness sector and helped support local families, jobs and regional initiatives.
Wendy was on the board of directors of the Tractor and Machinery Association of Australia for about 15 years and was the first and only woman chairman in 2004. All while raising her 4 children.
It is the youngest two of her children, Kurt and Skye Poltrock that share the ownership of Grizzly with Wendy now as the family begins a new period of growth and succession planning.
Both Kurt and Skye Poltrock have been working in the Grizzly Company for many years in varied rolls.
Kurt comes with a welding background and has worked as the general manager for several years.
Skye worked in Grizzly’s Bundaberg factory before coming back to Swan Hill to take over the marketing and sales role.
They have been involved with the company since early childhood when they lived in the newly built factory in 1986. They are excited about the future of Grizzly and their own families and children living in Swan Hill.
“We’ve just invested in 12 new evaporative air coolers for the shed, so that should set us apart from most other manufacturing businesses in the area” Kurt said adding they had also invested heavily in a new grit blasting, paint booth, plasma cutter, crane and other considerable upgrades to the factory.
“What sets us apart from a lot of other manufacturers is that we do have specialised processing methods here at Grizzly to be able to produce most components in house.
“It has been a company philosophy to be self-reliant and always be mixing apprentices in with our more experienced staff, many who have worked at Grizzly for over 20 years, to ensure a good future.”
Grizzly has earned a reputation for innovation and design and the brothers said there is a continued focus to remain at the “cutting edge” of industry trends.
“While we only manufacture ground engaging equipment, it’s disc ploughs that we truly specialise in, there are a number of key engineering and design points on our machines that give farmers a better in-field performance.
“We are proud to have won several ‘Australian Machine of the Year’ awards at the Australian National Field Days. We focus on building the best machines customers can buy. But always keep an eye into the future for what we can do better” says younger brother Skye.
“We specialise and invest heavily in research, design and development to give ourselves a market edge, we actively survey and listen to our customers and dealers so we can make the best machines available”
The brothers are in the process of taking over ownership of Grizzly from Wendy who is semi-retiring to focus on grandchildren, travel and some free time.
Although she is not sure helping look after Kurt and Skye’s young children will count as retirement.
The company is being passed on in a good position with continued growth over the last 6-7 years seeing the factory grow from 27 to 46 staff and a healthy list of new orders to make throughout 2018.
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