In 1969, Marlene and Kevin Morahan bought some chairs for their local school’s festival in Manly, Brisbane, Australia. Afterward, locals began asking to use the chairs for other events in the area and before long, their simple purchase transformed their family garage into “Moreton Bay Hire,” offering rental party and building equipment.
Fifty years later, the company has expanded far beyond its humble beginnings. Today, it is one of Australia’s largest event companies, with 200 employees working in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne as well as internationally in Singapore and Prague. But despite its tremendous growth, the company is still family owned and operated by Marlene Morahan’s son and grandchildren.
“Moreton Hire has always been a family-oriented business,” says Dan Morahan, general manager at Moreton Hire. “Our company atmosphere is full of energy and extremely fast-paced, but at the same time understanding to our staff’s work/life balance.”
Although maintaining staff is a common problem in the industry, Morahan says Australia’s lockdowns during the pandemic made that issue particularly challenging for them. “With the travel restrictions and border closures, the lack of international backpackers and students has had a major impact on labor hire for us to deliver events. We are fortunate enough to have a big core group of staff that have been with the business for 15-plus years.”
Those loyal employees were particularly helpful during the pandemic. Like many Tent Rental Division members, Moreton knew it had to pivot to new industries in order to survive. The company’s first instinct, of course, was to turn to its staff for suggestions. “The ideas just started flowing!” Morahan remembers. “We had a dedicated division of people making room in our warehouses for third-party logistics opportunities. Supply chains were suffering, and businesses were landing their stock in Australia with nowhere to store it! Our major warehouses in three cities were the perfect place to offer storage and logistics solutions to other businesses.”
But Morahan says the company’s biggest and most important pivot during the pandemic was working with the health industry in Australia. The company quickly became a trusted, nationwide rapid response provider of isolation units, mobile testing facilities, mobile vaccination centers, mobile hospitals and disaster relief. These solutions also included transforming one of their warehouses into a COVID vaccination site.
“We had been using furniture, marquees and walling to help build COVID response sites all over Australia,” he explains. “Fortunately this created space in our warehouse. We noted quickly how our site had all the necessary facilities to quickly build a new vaccination site to service the Melbourne area.”
He says the company has been able to redeploy resources typically used to build iconic Australian events, including several marquees they introduced for the Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.
“We have been fortunate to have the right products to help health departments with their requirements. We’re proud of our contribution to helping Australia on the road to recovery throughout the past three years.”
Morahan notes that these transitions into new markets have been beneficial for the company as well. “We have had to re-imagine our whole business and we are more streamlined than ever before. Post COVID, it means things won’t be the same for us. We have put a lot of time into our technology, cut underutilized products aggressively, explored new industries for opportunities and are more focused on a quality product to take us forward.”
Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, Australia
Year founded: 1969
Number of employees: 200
Primary business: Events and exhibitions