Springfield celebrates Spring, and success

Bob Sharpless, Chairman Maha Sinnathamby and Managing Director Raynuha Sinnathamby

The fastest growing region in Queensland, Springfield – with it’s population increasing by more than 3000 each year and record investment in recent years – celebrated recently with those who helped make it happen.

The list of achievements in recent times is certainly impressive: a $1.2 billion transport corridor with a dual railway line and a doubling of the Centenary highway, Mirvac’s $154 million expansion to Orion Shopping Centre, construction starting on the $550 million Dusit Thani resort, Orion Lagoon now open, and the new Mater Hospital about to open.

“Looking at that one window alone that represents close to $2 billion in private and public investment over the past two years,” said Springfield Land Corporation Deputy Chairman Bob Sharpless.

“And now we have Mater about to open their $85 million hospital, the $1.2 billion plan to build 2500 apartments for seniors, USQ’s expansion of their campus and the continuing rollout of health and education cities.”

The visionary for Springfield is of course, Maha Sinnathamby, who saw something in the area in the early 1990s that others did not see. In 1997 he bought the land on a leap of extreme faith for $7.9 million.

His vision for Springfield has always been an architecture for the city based on the interconnected pillars of health, education and information technology.

“Health is going to be a principal employer, and we are going to drive that very hard, but you can’t divorce health from education, they go hand in hand,” Mr Sinnathamby said.

“You’ve got to train people to work in the health sector right though the trades and administration to the top surgeons. Of course, information technology is also vitally important, and we are creating an IT hub here. These areas are where the jobs of tomorrow will be.”

People who visit Springfield are impressed with the quality of this master planned community. According to Maha Sinnathamby quality cannot be compromised. “The minute you compromise on quality you lower the standard, and that’s a slippery slope.

Why should we compromise?”

Maha regards developments such as Orion Lagoon, the new cinema complex, and the expansion of Orion Centre as bringing the region together.

“People from Ipswich suburbs and surrounding areas will come here and that’s going to bond them because they will meet each other and have fun together. That’s the important thing.”

Every entrepreneur and visionary needs a problem-solver and future planner, and that’s a role that Bob Sharpless has made his own. He has been central to arranging funding, negotiating with stakeholders and governments to keep things rolling along. This has been a 30-year partnership that has endured through some torrid and challenging times.

“I’m a problem solver by nature so I’ve enjoyed the challenge,” Bob Sharpless said.

“Maha is one of those guys who is very infectious and persuasive, and I’ve tended to manage the relationships with some of the more pragmatic people, while Maha’s been more in the creative space. It’s one thing to have the vision but the success is in the execution, so you need both.

“We’ve been through some tough times, we’ve had to live on our wits, we’ve had to borrow money on very high interest rates, but we’ve had a very loyal team that has helped along the way.”

With all the success to date both men are focused on “what needs to be done rather than what’s been achieved so far.”

“While recognising and valuing the past I much prefer talking about the future and that resonates well with people. What’s ahead of us is what keeps us excited and turning up every day.”

In one sentence, Bob Sharpless described the evolution of Springfield: “the natural evolution of a project is that in the early days infrastructure money is spent on roads and pipes, then you start creating green spaces, and then down the track you can start spending money on art galleries and culture and a whole lot of other things – it’s all in the plan.”