A city is only as strong as those who forge ahead for its best interests despite the many obstacles in the way of progress. Fortunately for Townsville there are many big-picture thinkers we’re proud to call our own. In this series we celebrate some of the doers who’ve helped put Townsville and the North on the map.
He’s such a well-known public figure that it may seem you know all there is to know about Loloma Jewellers founder Graham Jackson. So would you be surprised to learn his passion for working with charities was born out of time he spent as a professional pianist?
It was playing Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in Boogie on Australia’s Amateur Hour that gave 17-year-old Graham Jackson his shot at becoming a professional pianist. “It opened the door for me as a feature Boogie pianist at many important Brisbane events and weddings as well as being a pianist for a magician,” says Graham. “While the magician performed his ‘Sawing a Woman in Half’ act at charity events I played chords and music suitable for the occasion. I’ve been close to many charities ever since.”
Passionate about helping others whenever the opportunity arises, Graham has been involved in a long list of organisations at board level. From the Bush Children’s Home and PCYCs to the Red Shield Appeal, Salvation Army and Lions, Apex Club and Rotary Club, Graham is ever-ready to roll up his sleeves and help out.
A natural ‘fixer’, he’s also been the brains behind getting many businesses off the ground (Loloma Jewellers is a shining example). It’s coming to the rescue of local companies that had gone into liquidation, however, that Graham considers to be his finest hour.
“I was flying back from Sydney from a Showcase Jewellers meeting in the early ’90s when I saw a story in the Financial Review that said the two worst locations in Australia, in terms of banks not lending money, were Illawarra Wollongong and Townsville,” Graham says. “Early the next morning I arranged to meet Professor Ted Scott and John Lyons at TEL and we whiteboarded all the companies that had gone into liquidation or were under administration. We then wrote a business plan for our new company, Trinity Pty Ltd, which we founded to raise money and buy back the businesses by shareholders contributing $250,000 each. “We then had to find the businesses and advise them they wouldn’t make money if thy invested in Trinity, but they wouldn’t lose much either, and we would have Townsville’s successful business image restored. We’d lost four Townsville-listed public companies as well.”
“What I’d love to see in Townsville’s future is the development of several 5-star hotels on our beachfront. If we developed luxury hotels along The Strand and on Magnetic Island it would strengthen tourism and help make us the wedding centre for North Queensland.”
Eventually with Graham as Chairman, and with a board of well-respected local businessmen and academics, Trinity Pty Ltd continued for seven years, successfully buying many receiverships. “I remember both ferry terminals were in financial trouble and had to be bought to keep them afloat,” Graham says. “Radical Bay was in receivership and had to be sold and the projected hotel site in Flinders Street East (now a car park) needed to be sold too but there were no buyers. Trinity bought all of them and, with the help of many board members, we redeveloped management in many cases and then found buyers to have them trading again.”
Having lived in Townsville since 1957, Graham has been pleased to see many markers of progress over the years. He cites the development of the bypass highway and new Ross River Bridge, the expansion of James Cook University, the opening of the Korean Zinc Refinery and the building of the Stuart-Port Access Highway as important milestones for the city.
“It’s been amazing to watch the growth of the mining industry, with 1200 fly-in fly out miners, and to accept the collapse and then watch the expansion of urban real estate,” Graham says.
“I was on Hainan Island in China last year and stayed at Haitang Bay where they’ve just built 34 luxury
5 and 7-star hotels on a 21 mile stretch of beach with the world’s largest duty-free shopping centre in the middle. “What I’d love to see in Townsville’s future is the development of several 5-star hotels on our beachfront. If we developed luxury hotels along The Strand and on Magnetic Island it would strengthen tourism and help make us the wedding centre for