New Zealand has treated Sleepyhead very well over the years - it's time to give a bit back, says director Craig Turner.
The company's vision for a new $1 billion business and housing community at Ohinewai, north Waikato, may be a way the 84-year-old, family-owned business can say thanks.
Sleepyhead's parent company, Comfort Group, plans to build a 100,000sqm new factory complex in the north Waikato district, having outgrown its three manufacturing and warehouse sites in Auckland, along with affordable homes to give its staff the opportunity of homeownership.
That opportunity will be extended to others too in the plan to build a whole new community.
The blueprint is for 1100 homes priced around $500,000 on 176 hectares it has bought near the tiny Ohinewai village between Pokeno and Huntly. The development, to include 60ha of public open spaces for recreation, will be staged over 10 years and still requires a complex zoning change from rural. The company's hoping to hear from environmental commissioners soon when a hearing might be held.
The development could harness a dream Turner and his brother and fellow director Graeme have to improve prospects for young New Zealanders and their working future.
"People are critical to this plan, and growth for us will be through people," Turner said.
"Our dream is to start working with the colleges in the area and training young people coming through.
"Our business touches all aspects of working life - we have legal, accounting, chemistry, electrical, manufacturing, technology, marketing. There are huge opportunities for people in every walk of life, so we want to train in those skills."
New Zealand has the potential to continue to be a strong manufacturing hub, but companies like Sleepyhead are really struggling to attract staff, Turner said.
Yet the country had social problems because many young people saw no future for themselves in the workforce.
The brothers want to connect with Waikato youth as early as late primary school, said Turner.
"Those years, around 12 to 13 years, are very formative. We want to engage with kids who have particular skills which may not always fit with how our education system is currently structured."
There was a group in any classroom that slipped through the system, he said.
"There's actually some really smart people in there but our education system doesn't allow them to develop. So you get kids that really struggle to develop through college. We need more than some small technical programmes at college.
"Our goal is to get kids off the street and give them something to strive for, something they enjoy doing. We're working with the education department to develop these kids and give them opportunities.
"Maybe it won't be a huge number of kids but in our view if we just get a few of them and start the process, other industries can start thinking this way too. We think we can absolutely change how our youth look at their future.
"Kids don't start out being bad. They end up without opportunities and being bad. That can't be changed without everybody engaging and acknowledging the issue and working together to show young people hope.
"That's a big part of our project - to train people for the future and for our business. So as kids develop they can see how to work towards getting a house, getting a family, and living in this area."
Turner said he and his brother had discussed the philosophy with numerous staff and the response was very positive.
"There's no reason New Zealand can't continue to develop its manufacturing capability.
"But it will need training, communication and commitment. That's probably the biggest piece of this project and we are working hard to pull this all together."