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.
When push came to shove in helping Townsville get its fair share, David Carmichael AM was always there, advocating for our city. Despite his busy schedule heading up five car dealerships and a finance brokerage business he always made time to pitch in.
THE GO-TO GUY
“Whenever somebody said they had a problem and I could see it might affect Townsville’s image, I’d do what I could to help,” says David, who is now retired and lives in Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast. “I think if you work in a community you should be involved in everything you can to make sure it’s heading in the right direction.”
Take the Townsville Suns (later known as the Townsville Crocodiles) for example. After being approached in 1992 to support Townsville’s bid to enter the NBL, David gave freely of his time and money to organise the operating syndicate and gather the funds needed to make the bid a success. “Getting the Townsville Crocodiles off the ground showed Australia we would attend a sporting event and attend it well,” David says. “Most people thought we might get attendance of 2,000 but we sold out the stadium for five seasons. It was surprising how many people didn’t even know where Townsville was when we started off with the Crocodiles. I think they played a big part in establishing Townsville’s image. All of a sudden everyone took notice of Townsville and then the Cowboys came along.”
And were it not for David Carmichael, Tony Ireland and Laurence Lancini, Townsville may have missed out on hosting the V8 Supercars. “We were the three who said we were going to get it done,” David says. “When the government told us our proposal wouldn’t stack up I said ‘Well you’ve got to show me where it didn’t stack up and if you don’t, when we’ve done all the research, then I have no choice but to go to the media…’ That’s the sort of thing you had to do.”
Townsville has come a long way since David first arrived as a 31-year-old back in 1977, when the city only had three restaurants. “One was in the Lowths Hotel, one was on Palmer Street where Jam Corner is now and the third was a steak restaurant on Charters Towers Road where he cooked it medium-rare and if you didn’t like that, well then go somewhere else,” David recalls. “I bought McKillop Ford because it was the only dealership available I could afford, so that’s where I started.”
“I always started six apprentices in the year and four cadet salespeople. Some who started as apprentices are still at Carmichael Ford now, 40 years on.”
Over the next 14 years David turned the businesses into a very successful one. He then went on to buy the Toyota dealership in Cairns, the Holden dealership in Mackay, a Ford and Suzuki dealership in Mt Isa and the Mazda/Subaru dealership in Townsville. By the time he retired 10 years ago, David had five dealerships and 506 people working for him. “The people who I helped the most were all the people who worked with me,” David says.“I always started six apprentices in the year and four cadet salespeople. Some who started as apprentices are still at Carmichael Ford now, 40 years on.”
It was a heart attack seven years ago that forced David to slow down. “Running all of those businesses was stressful and while I was doing that I was also the chairman of the Port Authority and on the board of Queensland Rail,” David says.“I was on planes four or five days a week, coming home only on weekends. I’d sleep as soon as I got in and see the family for lunch on Sunday. Having open-heart surgery changed all that. These days I’m enjoying the so-called quiet life riding my push bike to the beach for a swim, playing golf, going to the gym and heading off on motorbike adventures and travelling overseas. I’m enjoying it more than I ever thought I would.”
David’s sons Adam and Andrew now own the family business in Townsville and David says they are competent operators who don’t need his advice. “We just deal as father and sons now,” David says. “I loved my time in Townsville and Townsville gave my family and I a great lifestyle. We did a lot of boating, spent a lot of time on the Reef – all those things you wouldn’t have done if you lived in an ordinary place.”