SOUTHERN Downs Regional Council has handed over the keys of the former Applethorpe TAFE site to Red Hill Berries owner Richard McGruddy following the recent sale of the property.
Council chief executive officer Andrew Roach said council announced last week that it had sold the former Applethorpe TAFE to Red Hill Berries Pty Ltd for $810,000 and secured a 30-year lease over adjoining land that will net council about $1.6 million.
The former Stanthorpe Council acquired the land and TAFE campus from the State Government in 2008 for $1.15 million.
Over recent times, several businesses have approached council about the site and it was agreed a tender process was the best option for the sale of the property.
Mr Roach said the sale of the former Applethorpe TAFE site was a significant milestone for Southern Downs Regional Council and for the region in general.
"Red Hill Berries is a new business to our region and will bring a great economic boost at a time when other regions are struggling," Mr Roach said.
"They will construct a berry distribution facility on the site and, once they are established, they expect to employ 50 full-time employees for eight to 10 months of the year, 180 seasonal workers plus a permanent farm manager and shed manager.
"There will be flow-on benefits as well with Red Hill Berries purchasing fertilisers, packaging, irrigation and other supplies from local business when full-time production starts."
Mr Roach said Red Hill Berries estimated their new Applethorpe operation would generate $1.5 million for the local economy every year once fully established.
Red Hill Berries owner Richard McGruddy said he looked forward to taking ownership of the site and building a strong business within the region.
"There is a whole host of opportunities to build business growth on the Southern Downs and I'm keen to be involved with such a pro-active community," Mr McGruddy said.
Red Hill Berries began on a former pineapple farm at Caboolture in 2003.
The strawberry and raspberry growers have vastly expanded and now extend over five growing properties, with more than 52 hectares in total, in addition to the new Applethorpe site.