Plenty of room for more growth

By Graham Skellern

Economic development agency Priority One is making an all-out effort to attract new businesses here and strengthen the economy in the Western Bay region.

Priority One, jointly funded by local councils and companies, has launched an extensive campaign called "The Tauranga Business Case" that will last up to three years.

The campaign will include a website (, billboard and media promotion, brochures, presentations to various organisations, and local and national networking involving Priority One's 240 members and other agencies such as Tauranga Chamber of Commerce and Export NZ Bay of Plenty.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

"It's no secret that Tauranga is one the country's fastest growing economic regions and there's a solid case for establishing or expanding business operations here," said Priority One chief executive, Andrew Coker.

"We want to ensure that economic development in the region is built on high value, innovative and productive businesses and there are strong employment opportunities."

Mr Coker said the timing for the campaign was right. "Our roading infrastructure is the envy of other regions, ultra fast broadband is going in, we have competitive industrial land, an university campus is on the starting block, research centres - titanium and coastal - are being set up, and we have access to semi and skilled labour. We can build a value proposition here."

He said the region faced some issues through the grounding of the Rena container vessel and the spread and impact of the Psa bacterial disease on the kiwifruit industry.

"We want to see the region thrive in the face of adversity and build economic sustainability that doesn't rely on one industry sector or is simply driven by population growth," Mr Coker said.

The business attraction campaign will concentrate on retaining and expanding local companies, establishing regional hubs here and attracting new businesses from outside the region.

The campaign will cost several hundred thousands of dollars, paid for out of Priority One's Community Growth fund, which has reserves of about $1 million. It will focus on key sectors - horticulture, food processing, specialist manufacturing, ICT, marine for boatbuilding and refit, and freight, logistics and distribution.

Initially, the campaign is being launched locally to capture the summer visitors particularly from Auckland and the Waikato, and it will then spread nationally from March.

Two large billboards will pop up on the Waikareao expressway just before the Elizabeth St roundabout and on the tank farm at the start of Hewletts Rd.

The first will say "Make your next trip a business trip" and the second "Imagine running your business from your favourite holiday destination".

Brochures and table talkers will be distributed to hotels, motels, cafes and restaurants, and the promotion will link up with the website. Tauranga, rather than the Western Bay name, is being used in the marketing because the city is more well known, but the campaign applies to the region from Waihi Beach to Paengaroa.

On the website, business leaders will be providing their vision for the region and seven companies will be telling their stories of how they developed their successful businesses in the Western Bay.

Local mayors Stuart Crosby and Ross Patterson, chief executives Vince Hawksworth, of TrustPower, Mark Cairns, of Port of Tauranga, Phil Cammish, of Bay of Plenty District Health Board, and Peter Farmer, a founding director of Priority One and Farmer Motor Group, will have a video spot and be talking about the region's economic future.

Electronics design company Multifid Technology International, superyacht suppliers Stainless DownUnder and Kiwi Closures, food processor Heilala Vanilla, North Island Mussel Processors, global kiwifruit marketer Zespri International, food services distributor Bidvest, and natural health products manufacturer and distributor Comvita will feature in the campaign.

Zespri, which operates a $1.5 billion sales operation, moved its head office to Mount Maunganui from Auckland to be closer to its suppliers, post-harvest companies and growers.

Heilala Vanilla grows and dries vanilla pods in Tonga and turns them into five food products at its processing plant in Te Puna.

North Island Mussel Processors, a joint venture between Sanford, Sealord Group and Greenshell New Zealand, moved its processing operation from the Coromandel to Tauranga - a skilled workforce was available - and expanded with a $23 million state-of-the-art factory, featuring the world's first automated mussel-opening machines.

The company is one of the largest employers in Tauranga with up to 220 workers and they can process up to 3600 mussels an hour.

Bidvest Foodservice was sending six trucks a day from Rotorua to stock cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels in Tauranga and then set up a new regional hub at Tauriko Business Estate.

Bidvest now employs 57 people in Tauranga and operates 18 trucks supplying fruit and vegetables, meat, frozen and dry goods all across the Bay and into the Coromandel and Waikato.

Comvita was established in the rural setting of Paengaroa in 1974 and now exports natural health, skin and woundcare products, mainly based on manuka honey, to 14 countries.

Comvita is part of the local heritage and its sales are approaching $100 million.

Sheet metal engineer Andrew Lilly and his wife, Suzanne, moved to Katikati from Auckland 14 years ago for the lifestyle and then established Stainless DownUnder and Kiwi Closures.

They are now one of the leading suppliers of hardware - deck hatches, port lights and sliding doors - to the superyacht market.

"We have no reason to go anywhere else with the way communications and transport are nowadays" said Mr Lilly.

"We were able to buy industrial land and had the space to expand instead of moving to other factories. That would have been quite a hamstring."

South African James Graham decided Tauranga was the best place to establish Multifid, an offshoot of the company he was involved with back home.

Multifid designs custom-made, high-tech communications products for the military, security, agriculture and industrial markets, and employs five electronics engineers.

Mr Graham said Tauranga had the potential to take a lot of business away from Auckland in terms of technology.

"There's a cumulative effect. When one new business moves in, others that support it will also want to relocate.

"I just think Tauranga is more user friendly for setting up a business than in Auckland."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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