Warrnambool businessman Colin McKenna has thanked the community for its support after receiving a Member Of The Order Of Australia in the Australia Day honours.
"I don't think it's up to the community to thank me, I should thank the community that has supported me over 45 years," he said.
"It's very important for me to say thanks to the community and the farmers for this recognition, this honour.
"I'm more passionate now about business than ever before, I have not lost the lust for work."
Mr McKenna said the award was tinged with sadness after the tragic death of Woolsthorpe's Duncan Craw, who is believed to have been killed while diving late last week.
He said Mr Craw worked on Midfield farms as a farming contractor and was well respected, a much loved member of the Woolsthorpe community, a devoted family man and Mr Craw would be greatly missed.
"Life throws up some cruel challenges, and this is one of them," he said.
The now 70-year-old said he had worked at the Warrnambool abattoir since 1982 and purchased the business from Warrnambool City Council for $2 million in 1988.
"I had been working with the council and (CEO) Vern Robson at the time, he was a big help," Mr McKenna said.
"It was bandied around that someone else had made advances but the sale of the abattoir fell over.
"Vern Robson could not have been more supportive and he felt, it was his vision, that if the abattoir remained in council hands it would eventually be closed, it would just be a shed without activity."
Mr McKenna said the council chief approached him because he had been running a slaughter business at the site.
"He asked if I was interested. It was $2 million and without our business was probably worth $200,000. We built it from there," he said.
"The council again helped me again when they were under administration in 1995-96 to build the first export floor.
"There is no doubt I have received great support from the council, the community and my family.
"It's a big family concern. There's not too many private companies this size."
The businessman said Midfield's milk processing factory, Union Dairy Company, had developed into a significant arm of the business, along with farming enterprises.
The multi-billion-dollar company employs about 1500 people with offices in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
"I believe there's still the potential for a considerable amount of growth, strategic growth," Mr McKenna said.
"Rural business, agriculture businesses are sought after, there's a bright future, we need to do more with what we've got.
"There's been overtures to sell but we won't be selling."
Mr McKenna said Warrnambool was the hub of the Midfield Group operations.
"I still walk in the doors at 4am on Monday," he said.
"To be honest, I sometimes think, look at this monster we've created, but I'm very proud, particularly of my family's involvement and the people who have worked with me for up to 45 years.
"To them I say 'thank you, thank you, thank you. They all need to be recognised."
Mr McKenna said his community involvement meant a lot to him, nothing more than the development of the Warrnambool-based cancer centre through Peter's Project.
"I'm very passionate about hospitals and schools and clubs, the community in general," he said.
"Many of those clubs, groups and organisations don't know me but I know them.
"I went to school at Emmanuel, the old Christian Brothers, and was fortunate to be involved in Brauerander Park through Andrew Anderson, who has just passed away.
"These sort of things don't just happen, there would not be a Brauerander Park without Andrew Anderson.
"If you don't put money into Peter's Project, if you don't get off your arse, no one will follow if you don't put in."
Mr McKenna said his company was now involved in exporting to 80 countries but it took almost 10 years to establish those relationships.
"It was pretty hard going for a little while, to bed down those international markets was a long slow process. It took things to the next level," he said.
"People vote with their feet. Generally if you do the right thing by them, they'll do the right thing by you."
Mr McKenna said he was not big on awards but he asked people whose view he respected and they said he should accept the AM.
"I'm most proud of our employees, the farmers who supported us, my family and I say 'thank you to the community'," he said.
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