Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962
The founder of Akrad Radio Corporation, the late K. M. Wrigley, was born in Waihi in 1913. In 1922, after gaining experience in Auckland, he established a business in Dean's Building, Waihi, which he called "Keith M. Wrigley Radio Sales and Service." It was here, with the help of his brother Wynn, that he began the manufacture of his own radios and before long, as the business grew, he employed others, and moved firstly to the building now occupied by the Waihi Dry Cleaning Co., and then to that at present occupied by Parker's Milk Bar, Rosemont Road.
In 1939 his business was situated in a building near the Church of England and it employed about 50 persons. Mr Wrigley now adopted the present name of the firm, and spent much time travelling throughout the North Island promoting sales. In 1942, when the Government stopped the manufacture of domestic radios, Akrad was called on to make equipment for war purposes which included army radios, buzzers and spare valve cases. Meanwhile, as the Seddon Street premises had become too small, the business was transferred to the King's Hall in Haszard Street.
On New Year's Day, 1946, Mr Wrigley passed away and under his Will, the Akrad Radio Corporation passed into the hands of the Public Trustee, who administered the business on behalf of the estate until 1952, when it was sold to shareholders who formed a company in the name of Akrad Radio Corporation Ltd. By this time the company was also manufacturing large quantities of children's tricycles and staff had been progressively increased until in 1951, 90 were employed.
In 1952, Pye Limited of Cambridge, England, bought a controlling interest in Akrad Radio Corporation Limited, and with this added strength, the company immediately embarked on a programme to manufacture radio sets under the Pye brand as well as Pacific and Regent. The erection of the new Pye brand of set in New Zealand created a much greater demand on company resources and staff again had to be increased. The Haszard Street premises were also progressively extended to their present size by 1958, bringing the total floor area to 40,000 square feet. Further plant, machinery and motor vehicles were purchased and stock was increased. It is interesting to note that as at 31st March, 1960, the average sum invested for each employee amounted to £1,390. During 1960 it became apparent that the Haszard Street premises would be quite inadequate to cope with the tremendous space requirements in producing television receivers.
A contract was therefore let for the erection of a new plant in Moresby Avenue, which is now completed and in full operation. The building faces Moresby Avenue and consists of large comfortable offices on the ground floor with staff locker rooms and other amenities on the first floor. A large modern cafeteria overlooking Martha Street, with up-to-date kitchen, has a seating capacity for over 200 persons. An area of 40,000 square feet on the first floor is used for the assembly of Television, Radio Telephone and Radio Receivers. The "saw-tooth" design of this area affords an abundance of natural lighting and temperature is controlled by four modern units placed at strategic points. Every effort has been made to bring the working conditions up to the very highest standard. A feature of this building is the roadway which passes through it, allowing vehicles to unload under cover on the same level as the factory floor. Access and egress to and from the building is made through entrances which incorporate electrically operated roller type doors. Fire protection is provided by a Sprinkler installation which serves the entire building.
To keep pace with the tremendous growth occurring in the electronic field, it has become necessary to expand the Technical Laboratories. Because of the many virtues in keeping technical research remote from manufacturing, it has become necessary to provide a new building for this purpose, which is being erected on a site in Barry Road, and is due for completion and occupation before the end of 1962. Total floor areas in Waihi will then be 120,000 square feet approximately.
With a staff of 350, and a weekly wage bill of £4,700, the operations of Akrad affect considerably the economy of Waihi. For example the retail value of the annual output exceeds £2,500,000, of which radio and television account for £2,100,000, radio telephones £300,000, and tricycles £100,000. This amount of business naturally produces much revenue for the town, over and above the wages paid. Waihi business-houses are paid £20,000, freights are £25,000 and power costs are £4,000, on an annual basis.
The Akrad Corporation is a subsidiary of Pye Electronics Ltd., a public company recently incorporated in New Zealand, with a capital of £1,500,000 and the goods produced in Waihi are sold throughout New Zealand by other subsidiaries of this parent company, namely Pye Ltd., G. A. Wooller and Co., Ltd., and Green and Cooper Ltd., under the trademarks of Pye, Astor and Clipper. Akrad is in direct communication with the Head Offices of these Companies by means of its own Teleprinter service.
Because of the explosive growth of the electronic industry throughout the world, and the bold outlook adopted by the Pye group of companies, there can be no question that the future of Akrad Radio Corporation Ltd., and consequently Waihi, is assured.