OUR RE­GION IS BUZZING

Strong growth is oc­cur­ring in sev­eral in­dus­tries, says local busi­ness ex­pert

Hamilton Metro News - - FRONT PAGE -

Busi­ness in the Waikato and Coro­man­del re­gions is thriv­ing, ac­cord­ing to a local busi­ness growth ex­pert.

“It’s an ex­cit­ing time to be do­ing busi­ness in the Waikato and the re­gion is buzzing,” says Waikato busi­ness growth man­ager Craig Purcell.

In par­tic­u­lar, there is strong growth in tech­nol­ogy, food and tourism, says Mr Purcell.

“Food is re­ally im­por­tant to the re­gion right now, and dairy­ing as a sub­set of that,” says Mr Purcell, who leads a team of six busi­ness growth ad­vi­sors based at Waikato In­no­va­tion Park.

“Tourism is go­ing through the roof, es­pe­cially up in Thames and Coro­man­del. The Hau­raki Rail Trail is bring­ing money into the re­gion through local busi­nesses, and the spend­ing and ben­e­fits are ex­ceed­ing the costs of build­ing and main­tain­ing the tracks them­selves.”

The Waikato Busi­ness Growth team is funded by the Re­gional Busi­ness Part­ner Net­work (RBPN) which is sup­ported by New Zealand Trade & En­ter­prise (NZTE) and Cal­laghan In­no­va­tion.

Its aim is to pro­vide free sup­port Waikato busi­nesses who have high-growth as­pi­ra­tions, are ex­port fo­cused, tech­nol­ogy-driven or have in­no­va­tive prod­ucts or ser­vices with real com­mer­cial merit. The team of­fers ad­vice and re­fer­rals for busi­ness men­tor­ing and can help busi­nesses ac­cess Cal­laghan In­no­va­tion grants for re­search and devel­op­ment and co-fund­ing for spe­cial­ist train­ing, busi­ness ser­vices or coach­ing.

Cur­rently, ad­vi­sors meet with around 500 busi­nesses ev­ery year, in­clud­ing many start-ups. They travel around the Waikato re­gion to meet with local busi­nesses, and spend one day each month in seven towns — Tuakau, Huntly, Thames, Paeroa, Toko­roa, Taupo and Raglan.

“The level of ac­tiv­ity has dou­bled over the last 12 months, and 60 per cent of our clients are out­side Hamil­ton,” says Mr Purcell.

The Busi­ness Growth team be­gan around seven years ago.

“It be­gan with one man — Peter Maxwell — and there has been a grad­ual in­crease in ser­vices,” says Purcell. “Now we have five full­time-equiv­a­lents (FTEs) across six peo­ple.”

The cur­rent team in­cludes busi­ness growth ad­vi­sors Peter Davey, Novell Gopal, Kahu­rangi Tay­lor, Hay­ley Smith and Waikato men­tor man­ager Tony Kane. Food Waikato’s Shane Kells has also been do­ing good work as a busi­ness growth ad­vi­sor in the food space, says Mr Purcell.

He has no­ticed that there is more busi­ness col­lab­o­ra­tion across the re­gion, which is vi­tal to de­vel­op­ing in­no­va­tion.

“We have seen an ex­plo­sion of Waikato busi­nesses get­ting on with in­no­va­tion projects, work­ing to­gether us­ing Cal­laghan In­no­va­tion pro­ject grants. There are 31 of th­ese projects on the go at the mo­ment and last year there were just four. They are across the re­gion and from a range of in­dus­tries in­clud­ing big tech­nol­ogy to man­u­fac­tur­ing to agribusi­ness to health to food – a real cross sec­tion.”

Mr Purcell says there has been a change in think­ing, and it’s mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

“There is an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for risk and re­turn now that we weren’t see­ing two years ago. In­creased cash flow gives a sense of con­fi­dence to busi­nesses, which leads to col­lab­o­ra­tion.”

Sup­port­ing and grow­ing Maori busi­nesses is also a pri­or­ity for the re­gion and the coun­try, and is

The level of ac­tiv­ity has dou­bled over the last 12 months, and 60 per cent of our clients are out­side Hamil­ton.

Craig Purcell

some­thing that the Busi­ness Growth team has fo­cused on re­cently. In Novem­ber they co-hosted a Maori Busi­ness Panel at Waikato In­no­va­tion Park with Waikato Tainui.

“We are work­ing hard to boost en­gage­ment and sup­port to Maori busi­nesses,” says Purcell.

There have been other events hosted at the Park in 2017, de­signed to en­cour­age busi­ness growth in the Waikato re­gion. The first Waikato Tech­nol­ogy Show was held at the Park in Fe­bru­ary, timed to co­in­cide with the launch of Cul­ti­vateIT, a re­gional clus­ter group for ICT pro­fes­sion­als.

Next May the team will co-or­di­nate Tech­week ’18 around the re­gion, which aims to foster growth in tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion in New Zealand.

Tech­nol­ogy con­tin­ues to be big for the re­gion. Mr Purcell says Waikato com­pa­nies are lead­ing growth in the tech­nol­ogy sec­tor na­tion­ally and are among the top play­ers in the TIN200 group — New Zealand’s top 200 tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies.

The Busi­ness Growth team also runs an in­vi­ta­tion-only In­no­va­tion Fo­rum each quar­ter for 30 local busi­nesses, to de­velop their in­no­va­tion skills.

Mr Purcell says it is a priv­i­lege to help peo­ple grow their ideas and busi­nesses, and that peo­ple with in­no­va­tive busi­ness ideas or prod­ucts to get ad­vice early on, as they may be el­i­gi­ble for a Cal­laghan In­no­va­tion Get­ting Started grant.

Busi­nesses can also ac­cess Re­gional Busi­ness Part­ner co-fund­ing through the NZTE ca­pa­bil­ity devel­op­ment voucher scheme. Th­ese vouch­ers en­able peo­ple to up­skill in ar­eas such as strate­gic plan­ning, mar­ket­ing, cap­i­tal rais­ing, busi­ness sys­tems, fi­nance, sustainability, managing re­sources, gov­er­nance and ex­port­ing — with ac­cess to around 60 local coaches and train­ers.

Client sat­is­fac­tion with Waikato In­no­va­tion Park’s re­gional busi­ness part­ner ac­tiv­i­ties and men­tor fa­cil­i­ta­tion ser­vices is high, and bet­ter than the na­tional av­er­ages when last mea­sured.

The Busi­ness Growth team is well re­garded by stake­hold­ers, and works closely with re­gional coun­cils and ter­ri­to­rial au­thor­i­ties.

Dis­cus­sions are un­der­way for the es­tab­lish­ment of a new re­gional eco­nomic devel­op­ment agency (REDA) based at Waikato In­no­va­tion Park next year, which will build on the work the Busi­ness Growth team is do­ing.

“The busi­ness eco-sys­tem in the Waikato and Coro­man­del re­gions is more con­nected now than three years ago when I started,” says Mr Purcell.

“It’s been a process of get­ting to know each other and the ca­pa­bil­i­ties we of­fer. We look for­ward to build­ing on what we do, but ex­pand­ing the ser­vices pro­vided with the new re­gional eco­nomic devel­op­ment agency.”

■ For free ad­vice from Waikato In­no­va­tion Park’s Busi­ness Growth Team contact 07 857-0538 or busi­ness­growth@wipltd.co.nz For more in­for­ma­tion see www.wipltd.co.nz/ what-we-do/grow-your-busi­ness

Photo /Supplied

Waikato In­no­va­tion Park CEO Stu­art Gor­don, busi­ness growth ad­vi­sors Novell Gopal, Peter Davey, Kahu­rangi Tay­lor, Hay­ley Smith and busi­ness growth man­ager Craig Purcell.

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