Cable car business reaches new heights
Living in hilly Wellington influenced Mark Galvin so much that he formed a cable car manufacturing business that has won a prestigious international award.
Access Automation - which makes customised inclined lift systems commonly known as cable cars - won the Elevator World magazine Best Inclined Elevator of the Year Award for 2013.
The Alicetown-based company was recognised for cable cars themed to look like local fishing boats at the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Vietnam.
Galvin said he worked alongside the resort's architect to achieve the winning boat look.
"He said ‘I want a fishing boat floating through the resort. Can you make that for me?' I said ‘we'll do that for you'. For a tiny company of 10 people in New Zealand to take that award is something quite special."
He said the win reinforced the fact that Access Automation is as good as its much larger foreign competitors.
"We are out there footing it with the best of these big European lift manufacturers.
"We are very confident about the outlook for the future."
The company was established in the early 1990s after a piece of "sheer good luck" saw Galvin receive a referral and eventually win a contract for a 130m cable car at a Solomon Islands' hotel.
"It went really well and that was a springboard to set up Access Automation."
He has since gone on to build million dollar-plus cable car systems for resorts in various countries including Indonesia, Hawaii, and a new project on mainland China.
"I can't say too much about it at the moment . . . but it's a big development which could include multiple installations."
Galvin, a mechanical engineer and scientist, worked for 18 years at the the former Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
He drew on his experience to create innovative designs which ensure his cable cars are self-levelling and can turn corners.
"It gives the developer a lot more flexibility on how they lay out their resorts and it softens the look.
"Cable cars used to be like train tracks running straight smack through. It would mean bulldozing the hill to keep grades uniform and the job straight."
Galvin started building cable cars in his garage. An early example included one for his parents' retirement home in Seatoun.
The initial focus was on residential projects in New Zealand - Wellington is the largest market with about 300 Access Automation cable cars.
"If I hadn't been from Wellington then I probably wouldn't be building cable cars . . . but if you live in Wellington it is pretty obvious the need for mechanised access."
Galvin sees the day when his company grows but he first wants to ensure he has all his ducks in a row.
"If we embarked on a full-on advertising campaign we could easily generate more work, swamp ourselves and go backwards. We have to be a disciplined and methodical about the way we plan our expansion.
"We see our growth not in the domestic market of Wellington or New Zealand. It's really the commercial units offshore for the hotels and resorts."