Transcript: A video case study on Leffler Simes Architects


>>Voiceover: The services sector is a major contributor to the Australian economy. The sector accounts for around 70 per cent of Australia’s economic activity and employs four out of five Australians.

The free trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea are set to expand the opportunities available for Australian services companies in the dynamic Asian market.

The agreements make it easier to set up operations, establish partnerships with local companies and provide services in these countries.

This will help generate more wealth for Australia, create jobs for Australians and strengthen bilateral relationships.

Leffler Simes Architects is one of many Australian businesses preparing to make the most of the free trade agreements with North Asia.

>>Steve Evans: My name’s Steve Evans. I’m one of the five directors for Leffler Simes Architects. We have three offices here in Australia – Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne – with the start of an office in Beijing.

We do all sorts of architectural projects here in Australia. We do a lot of retail, lots of large retail shopping centre work, we do commercial offices, schools, hospitals and high-end multi-residential work.

>>Voiceover: The agreements with Japan and Korea provide opportunities for Australian architectural and urban planning firms. These include support for mutual recognition of professional qualifications, guaranteed existing market access, and improved visa access arrangements.

The China Agreement also includes new or significantly improved market access for Australian services companies in China’s fast-growing services sector. This is good news for Leffler Simes Architects, who had an unusual entry into the China market.

>>Steve Evans: We got a call out of the blue one day from a young Chinese gentleman who was walking through our Ikea/Harvey Norman shopping centre here in Springvale in Victoria. He said he was walking around the shopping centre, he liked what we did. His father-in-law is a property developer in northern China, they were on their fourth development and had no confidence in their local architects. Would we be willing to have a chat with him.

So I says, “Yes, of course.” So he came in, we spoke for about three hours, got on very, very well. I said to my business partner, Chris Goodwin, in Sydney, I said, “Chris, let’s just wing it. Let’s just go to China and see if we can meet these people and see if we can make something happen.”

So a week later we flew to northern China and we came home literally with three or four projects.

That first job was two years ago. During those two years we’ve done those projects with resources back here in Australia. So we’ve just completed two very large kindergartens for them for 400 kids each but very large; they’re basically mini-schools. We’ve done some work on a shopping centre there and a music school. We’ve done all that work back here in Australia.

Our staff here are working on Chinese jobs which is pretty amazing for them. It’s enabled us to expand our workforce here in Australia. In the last two years we’ve probably put on another four people just for those projects.

>>Voiceover: Under the agreement with China, previous experience of Australian architectural and urban planning firms will be taken into account when assessing applications for higher-level qualifications, providing greater scope for employment opportunities.

>>Steve Evans: My understanding of the Free Trade Agreement is that it will enable us to do far more. We will be able to apply for a licence to do larger projects within China. We will also be able to do construction documentation in China. Our current licence that we have in China now only allows us to do conceptual design for projects and then work with a local architectural institute to do construction documentation. This new Free Trade Agreement will allow us to apply for a licence to do the full package.

The Free Trade Agreement, what it does is it encourages both countries to do business with each other and we see our developers that we meet are being exposed to it in China and they understand that Australia is wanting to do business with them.


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