Owner loses everything as downturn claims business

A TOOWOOMBA businessman who rode the wave of the resources boom has been left with just bitter memories of a business lost to a debilitating and dramatic downturn.

His story is heartbreaking, confronting and today all too common in Toowoomba and across the Darling Downs.

Brendan Findlay started Findlay Engineering eight years ago when the coal seam gas industry had just started to emerge in south-west Queensland.

The business enjoyed strong growth in its initial years, employing a workforce of 15 and securing contracts with some of the major players in the oil, gas and copper industries.

But two weeks ago, Mr Findlay's business reached breaking point.

The banks moved in, staff were let go and Findlay Engineering was declared bankrupt.

Mr Findlay sounds brittle and exhausted explaining the cost of the resources downturn on his business and personal life.

"I've lost everything," he said.

"Twenty years of life savings are gone.

"We've sold our house and my wife's gone back to work fulltime.

"We've had to walk away with nothing."

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Mr Findlay is this week facing the agonising task of clearing out the Mansell St shed where the business started, grew and crumbled.

He does not blame anyone in particular for the collapse.

Instead, he points the finger at a combination of factors that forced Queensland's resources sector to grind to a halt.

"It's really hit hard in the past 12 months - the downturn in the oil and gas sectors," he said.

"And we also did a lot of work in the copper industry - today copper prices have hit their lowest."

Mr Findlay is not alone.

The salvage crews that were called in to clear out steel and equipment from the engineering firm had done similar work at five other businesses in just the past three months.

They were located in Toowoomba, Dalby and the Lockyer Valley.

Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise chief executive officer Shane Charles agreed the resources downturn had hurt many businesses in Toowoomba and across the Darling Downs.

"Absolutely the downturn has hit hard. That's reflected in a recent business survey that showed business confidence was low," he said.

"And the conversations around town at the moment are about how tough everyone is doing it."

But Mr Charles remains upbeat.

He is certain the tough times are only temporary.

"Businesses need to try hard to tough it out because over the next 12 months we're confident there will be brighter times."

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