New leader for federation

The New Zealand Contractors’ Federation has employed a new CEO, Jeremy Sole, who’s relishing the challenges his new role offers.   BY MARY SEARLE

April_cover.jpgHaving been in his new position at the Contractors’ Federation for a month now, Jeremy Sole is getting a good grip on the issues the civil contracting sector is dealing with and the challenges he faces in leading the federation through very difficult economic times.

Key to this leadership role depends on him having the ear of the country’s political leaders, being able to lobby them to the advantage of the industry. This is no small task as many others are trying to do the same for their sectors, some of which are in direct conflict to the interests of contractors. Consequently in appointing a new leader, it was imperative to select someone with the necessary contacts and a good understanding of how the political machine works and who’s able to stand out from the crowd of lobbyists.

Enter Jeremy Sole, one time National Party general election candidate for the Northcote seat. He narrowly missed out on the job on election day but the many months spent on the campaign trail have given him a thorough understanding of the political scene and allowed him to get to know many politicians well. Vital experience which will be hugely beneficial in his new job.

“My role at the federation involves developing relationships across the whole political landscape, not just with National,” he says. “I have to get on with everyone. I need to be able to listen to all perspectives and be trusted by all the different political parties.”

But politics is just a small part of Sole’s career history. For the most part he’s been in business – often as a consultant. This background broadens his point of view.

“It’s given me a business perspective, which means I understand ever present and hugely important issues around money and employees.”

He started his career with an automotive engineering apprenticeship in Wellington, working in the industry for a number of years – so he has an appreciation of practical work and no fear of getting grubby. And one of his most recent roles was with Stevenson Group, where he was involved with organisational development and new venture research. His time there has given him an understanding of how the industry thinks and operates, rounding out his qualifications for his new position nicely.

Sole views his role at the federation as that of a facilitator – a conduit between cabinet ministers and the federation, as well as between the federation executive and the members, and facilitation the growth of both the federation and its member’s businesses.

He will also be facilitating the flow of money, getting both central and local government spending on infrastructure projects around the country.

“We’ve got to get the money moving,” he says. “The way it works at the moment is central government puts money for infrastructure projects is put in a bucket, and if the local government involved doesn’t commit to its share of a particular project the central government money for that project stays in the bucket. We need to get it shifted to where it will be spent.”

Sole has joined the federation at a point when the industry has received a welcome boost through the Government’s economic stimulus package to accelerate state highway projects and road maintenance work across the country.

“The economic stimulus package is very well thought out and will bring clear benefits for the civil construction sector and the New Zealand economy as a whole,” he says.

But he does have some concerns about the promised infrastructure spend.

“The plans are good. The allocations are good. But getting money out of wallets is another thing.”

Sole believes one of the most important things he needs to concentrate on is around the change of government.

“A number of government policies and laws will change soon for the next 10 to 15 years so I need to get in and get involved in these early stages.

“I’m fairly philosophical about how the government thinks and operates, but I want it to have the federation in mind when its looking at projects – by breaking projects into small pieces rather than bundling them together, for example.”

Sole believes he’s in a good position to work from.

“The federation is in good shape at the moment,” he says. “It has great services for its members, although not all members use it as much as they could, and is in a strong position to influence government positively.

“It has campaigned for long-term planning for infrastructure development to enable authorities, contractors and communities to prepare and to make strategic decisions with the least risk.

“The accelerated funding should allow us to see real progress being made to create the roading system we need to support our economy into the future,” he says.

“New Zealand contractors have the capacity for both this work and to take on further projects and I look forward to working constructively with the industry and Government on the future development of our infrastructure.” 

Contractor Vol.33  No.3  April 2009
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