JOHN Wagner talks like he runs a small town family business.
He rarely uses corporate jargon and describes himself as "casual" while telling us he prefers his blue work shirt over a suit.
His clarity and straight-talking nature may be one of the reasons he sits as chairman of the board for Wagners - an international building materials firm operating out of Toowoomba.
It employs 800 people, and operates in 20 countries.
It is an empire overseen from regional Queensland.
Wagner's long-standing success landed in the national headlines when the board -- including John and his brothers Neill, Denis and Joe - agreed to fund and build the new Brisbane West Wellcamp airport for Toowoomba.
Australia hasn't had a new airport in 50 years.
Wellcamp is also the name of the company's business park, a 500 hectare precinct surrounding the new runway.
In 2014, the Wagner family was ranked as the 16th richest in the country, worth an estimated $827 million by BRW.
In Toowoomba, it is no secret that John is a key cog in Wagner's enormous corporate machine and the town's most powerful dynasty.
ON KEEPING KIDS GROUNDED
John has four grown up children - aged 23, 22, 21 and 20.
John said while each were given a good education, they were not allowed to squander their days enjoying idle luxuries.
They know the value of a dollar, he said.
"The sort of things we did was make them pay for phones and their own cars. We wouldn't subsidise their social lives," he says.
"We're a pretty simple sort of people actually."
These "simple sort of people" - John and his three brothers - sat around a table in April 2012 and agreed to develop Brisbane West Wellcamp.
REACHING FOR THE SKIES
Just 31 months after family and board decided unanimously on the project - worth "hundreds of millions of dollars" - a QantasLink flight from Sydney landed on the 2.87km runway.
"We have been very vocal advocates that Toowoomba needed a decent airport to give us connectivity," he says.
"To be able to operate an international business here in Toowoomba is quite difficult without an airport."
But building the business was not the family's only motivation.
"We all live in Toowoomba and we've got children growing up here so it was just a natural thing that we wanted to do.
"It's a multi-generational asset."
The Wellcamp airport is the latest addition to a legacy the Wagners first forged in Toowoomba when the family opened a stone masonry business in 1896.
Wagners generates $300m income a year from its Toowoomba headquarters, more than half the annual budget of the Toowoomba Regional Council.
John concedes the firm is "a big fish in a small pond".
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE THE REGIONS.
Despite their size, Wagners is yet to be tempted away from its regional roots.
"Toowoomba is a great place to live," John says.
"It's a great place to do business.
"We're strong believers in supporting regional Australia and we've made a very conscious decision that our headquarters would always be in Toowoomba."
Wagners also has a global HQ in Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur, which focuses on international markets.
For John, the airport remains front of mind since opening late last year.
After QantasLink's first flight in November, regional airline REX has now begun delivering passengers between Toowoomba and the state's north and west.
From here, John says the airport and the family business have their eyes focused skyward.
"I think 2015 for Wagners is going to be a record year," he says.
"I think it's going to be business as usual but it's going to be a very busy year for us."
Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?
This piece is the part of the series, From The Heart: Aussie Icons Speak Out from Australian Regional Media.
Wednesday's edition will feature radio icon Amanda Keller and Brendan "Jonesy" Jones
In this video series we have also spoken to:
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