Some weeks are better than others and this one has been pretty extraordinary. I’m actually quite nervous writing about it because I want to make sure I capture the details correctly, for this week, I’m positive I felt the path in front of me shift. This week I started to believe something about myself and my purpose that I didn’t quite believe to be true before.

The week started super strong with our local MP’s Juliana Addison (Wendouree) and Martha Haylett (Rippon) coming into the HUCX factory for a tour. It’s incredibly hard to get in front of any MP’s, let alone two so I was extremely grateful to Lynne Duncan for organising it. I hope it goes without saying that they were thoroughly impressed with our panelised building system. The vibes were super high and the most wonderful thing about energetic and passionate politicians coming to visit is that immediately you see them making connections with people in their network who would benefit from our system.

While we were having a cuppa to warm up after being in the freezing cold factory we asked if they had any advice for our meeting with Hon. Natalie Hutchins the next day for the Modern Methods of Construction Ministerial Roundtable. Juliana lit up and said, yes, absolutely! MP’s love tangible things, something they can touch and feel. She suggested we give Natalie one of our little panel samples and invite her to visit. Their encouragement and enthusiasm was exactly what we needed before attending the Roundtable.

The next day Matt and I were extremely early for our 3pm meeting in Melbourne because we didn’t want to be late plus we also needed to buy Matt a new shirt since everything he owns is wrecked from the factory. With Matt in a fancy new shirt, me in my best op shop kilt and no kids in tow we went out for a lovely romantic lunch amidst the chaos. It was sweet.

At 3pm we ascended up 46 floors to get not only the best view of Melbourne but to meet the other attendees of the roundtable. This was an intimate affair with just over 20 people, all extremely successful titans in the advanced manufacturing industry. To say I was starstruck was an understatement. I’ve been following some of these businesses for years.

Knowing this could be our one opportunity to meet these people I drove straight in. By the end of the 15 minute meet and greet I had one of the companies I love, organised to visit our factory and discuss the potential of using HUCX panels for an upcoming job of 30 buildings. I was in my zone.

The roundtable itself was super interesting. Matt and I are such small fry compared to companies that literally make 100 buildings a month but we struggle with lots of the same issues. Getting loans for Prefab buildings for example is a huge problem as banks don’t like to lend money on something that isn’t in the ground. If 90% of a building is made in the factory then when does the bank step in? We need a 40-50% deposit to make our buildings which means we’re limited to owner builders or people who already have the money. Banks need to catch up.

There is also a huge gap with consumer perceptions of what prefab buildings are. Most people assume super cheap (like portables) or super expensive (10 star passive homes). There is also a huge consumer preference for customisation of homes and rightly so. This has never been a problem for HUCX since our software takes any building and breaks it down to its components (all the panels we need to make) so it doesn’t matter if it's 1 house, 100 times or 100 different homes, it's all the same process in the factory. This was another thing that set us apart from our pairs (other than size!) as we have a truly unique product, while most of the people in the room were doing traditional building in a factory so offsite construction in every sense of the word.

The hour and half long meeting was super interesting and it was fantastic to hear what the actual people who’re making the policies are thinking about in regards to encouraging people to use prefab or Modern Methods on Construction as they like to call it. There was mention of some kind of ‘show village’ where everyone at the table could showcase what they do to help to shift perceptions about the industry.  At the end of the meeting I presented Natalie with our small sample (which she loved so thanks Juliana!) and invite her to Ballarat to visit.

To say it was a hugely important few days for us was an understatement. We got to sit at the big kids table and feel like we truly belong. We got to meet amazing people and strengthen our presence and position as a business who has way more to offer than simply a better way to build. When we picked up the kids, who had been fed, washed and put in PJs by our magnificent friends, all they asked about the meeting was whether they had mentos or not. There is nothing more humbling than your kids bringing you back to earth. We of course had handfuls of mentos for them because all the important meetings have tiny bowls of mentos.

On Wednesday I had a Future Shapers day about our community projects. This was a different mode from the start of the week because I’ve been unsure of where this is heading. The first part of Future Shapers is loaded with experiences and getting us in and amongst the community. The second part of the year is spent getting into smaller groups and working on a project that has emerged from our earlier adventures. I was very adamant to avoid housing because this year is an opportunity to leave my comfort zone. I wanted to immerse myself in something that was new.

As I stood in the lunch line and explained the start of my week to someone, the host of the day, the delightful Claire Huntington overheard me and later on in one of our sessions asked me to retell my experience of the last few days. As I heard the words coming out of my mouth, an idea was forming about what this all means. Last year we met with the City of Ballarat and discussed their need for infill 1-2 bedroom dwellings as 20-30 year olds who want to be based in town are one of Ballarat’s biggest incoming demographics. Almost all industries (especially healthcare) are struggling to get workers in because there's nowhere to live. Homeless have never been higher with the cost of living continuing to go up with no end in sight.

These insights plus the Minister floating the idea of a show village for advanced manufacturing made me think that maybe a project could exist that serves both state and local government. The government loves something presented in a nice box so maybe, just maybe, there is something in creating a proposal for a show village in Ballarat…

I sat back down in my seat feeling a little tingly. Maybe there was something in this. Our community project has to align with the Committee of Ballarat’s areas of growth, two of which are housing and the digital economy.  Later on that day my fellow Future Shaper Matt came up to me and said, ‘Jess, if you want to do this, I’m with you. I think I can help.’ All of a sudden my free flowing, huge, terrifying trail of thought started to form edges and take shape. What if…

When I retold my Matt this story later that night, I cried a little. By the next day I had a team of 4 extraordinary humans putting up their hand to help bring this project, whatever it may look like, together. I can’t afford any of their expertise but as a community we can’t afford not to embrace Modern Methods of Construction and start building quality homes, for all types of people, in the places where they want to live. Why shouldn't we be the people to do it?

Video of the week
SEVDALIZA - NOTHING LASTS FOREVER FT. GRIMES
Podcast of the week
Armchair Anonymous: Embarrassing Sex
Font of the week
MN-Octic: Font of the week by Masahiro Naruse

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