THE long-suffering people of Lae – long disparaged as the “pothole city” of Papua New Guinea – will see a ray of sunshine with the opening of the new K65 million Lae Biscuit Company factory by Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane.
Hundreds of invited guests from PNG and overseas are expected to converge on Kamkumung tomorrow for the opening.
The guest list reads like a who’s who of PNG business, Government and politics who will be there to witness the opening of PNG’s largest single factory and the biggest stand-alone biscuit-making factory in the southern hemisphere.
Excitement is already building up among the Lae business community and people as they see this as an opportunity to shrug off the “pothole city” tag and f regain some lost glory.
This brand-new biscuit-manufacturing facility is comparable in standard with any similar factory in Australia.
It will provide employment for some 450 people and promises best-working conditions and remuneration packages in PNG.
It is a massive vote of confidence in Lae, Morobe province and PNG by a Chinese family which has come to call the country home.
Moreover, it is a shining example to the people of Lae, Morobe province and PNG of what can be achieved through singled-minded determination and sheer hard work.
The buildings and whole facility consist of a main factory building which is 204m long, administration building, staff facility building, workshop, emergency generating set room and a guard house.
The two biscuit-making lines are installed in the main factory and the administration building will accommodate administration, planning, accounting and marketing.
The staff facility building has a fully-equipped kitchen and a large dining room which can prepare and provide meals for 200 persons at one seating.
Lae Biscuit Company will provide meals to all staff at no cost to them, we are told.
Ablution and laundry facilities are up to international standards for a food-manufacturing facility.
It will be a special day for company founder and chairman, Sir Henry Chow, 76, a member of the Chinese family that has been in PNG for 115 years – spanning six generations – since their grandfather arrived at Kokopo as a coolie under the German administration in 1895.
Grandfather Chow was later given a piece of land on west coast New Ireland where he established Olebo plantation and raised eight children.
Gabriel Chow, Sir Henry’s father, also had eight children – seven boys and a girl – with Sir Henry being the second.
In 1947, after the devastation of World War II, Gabriel Chow started a small bakery in Rabaul selling bread and scones and, from his meagre earnings, saved enough for his children, including Sir Henry, for an education in Australia.
Sir Henry was in Australia from 1948-58, where he learned boatbuilding and, after his return to Rabaul, started a small company called Toboi Shipping.
From those very humble beginnings, the Chow family now runs a range of businesses in PNG with some 900-odd employees. They are into biscuit-making, shipping, stevedoring, transport, ship repair and maintenance, sausage manufacturing, small goods, hams and bacons, fishing for export to Asian countries
and logging and sawmilling for export of sawn timber to Asia, Europe, Australia and the Pacific.
The portfolio of companies included Toboi Shipping, Coastal Shipping, Lae Biscuit Company, French Bake Haus, Hakau Investments, Torokina Corporation, Prima Small Goods, Neptune Fisheries Company, Santi Forestry (PNG) and Pearl River Company.
“The family has done very well over the 115 years from our coolie grandfather to come to this stage,” an emotional Sir Henry told reporters in his magnificent new boardroom.
It has not been easy, he says.
The fact that Sir Henry has decided to stand this brand new factory in the city where he started off by buying a small biscuit-making company called Lae Biscuit at Voco Point in 1974 is a vote of confidence in a city that is about to undergo some major changes.