The Thiess story has an extraordinarily humble beginning on a farm at Drayton, near Toowoomba, where Henry and Mary Thiess raised 11 children, 10 boys and a girl. In order to provide for his large family, Henry purchased a steel rimmed, kerosene driven tractor and sent the boys out share cropping.
The early hard work, determination and resilience thereby acquired, was to become part of the DNA of the Thiess business – one of Queensland’s greatest business successes.
Throughout its life, Thiess has been prepared to take on any task, however seemingly difficult and to go to where the work is – whether in remote parts of Queensland or elsewhere in Australia.
The Thiess brothers, Les, Bert, Stan, Pat and Cecil, started the business and were both innovators and early adopters of machinery technology. This brought them substantial contracts during World War II, laying the foundation for a successful business. The major turning point in its history occurred when the Australian company was awarded a major works contract on the Snowy Mountains’ project. From that moment, it grew and evolved into a major engineering company.
Its contribution to the construction of dams, highways and bridges in Queensland is unprecedented and these successes have been repeated throughout Australia. It is said, sincerely, that if a highway was constructed around the coastline of Australia, it would go close to matching the road works undertaken by Thiess during its history.
The entrepreneurship of the brothers, Sir Leslie in particular, led to the pioneering of open cut coalmining, the Australia-Japan coal trade and the Australian distribution of Toyota vehicles, amongst others.
The Thiess business was publicly listed in 1958 and became part of the Leighton Group in 1983 and is now turning over in excess $7 billion worth of work annually in construction, mining and diversified services. This includes construction of Airport Link, Australia’s largest and most complex road infrastructure project.
The character and culture of Thiess is forever embedded and deeply rooted in its Queensland history. Its success owes much to the remarkable entrepreneurship and “can do” attitude of the Thiess brothers and other outstanding leaders. The company retains its corporate headquarters in Queensland.