Carmen is a social issues and rural reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Small enterprises booming in Tauranga

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Tauranga Chamber of Commerce CEO Stan Gregec.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce CEO Stan Gregec.

Tauranga's small to medium business community is "booming" as more companies move to the region or entrepreneurs start up new ventures, experts say.

Statistics from Priority One and compiled by Infometrics showed, in 2015, 65.2 per cent of businesses in the city were owner-operated and had no employees, compared with 20.4 per cent that had one to five employees and 4.8 per cent that had 10 to 19 employees.

Last year, there were 61,057 jobs in the city, up 3.7 per cent on 2014, and 14,297 business units (one office or factory) in 2015 - a hike of 2.6 per cent over the corresponding timeframe.

Many are mature people who still have plenty of energy and ideas, and are willing to give it a go. Tauranga's a great place to be based, whether you're a small lifestyle business or an aspiring bigger business.
Stan Gregec, Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive

Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said, alongside the rural sector, small businesses are the backbone of, not only Tauranga's economy, but also New Zealand's.

Growth in the sector was driven by the city's competitive advantages that included the ability to attract skilled and talented people, the competitiveness and efficiency of the Port of Tauranga and access to international markets.

Tauranga was very well set up for the future in terms of the growth of small and medium-sized businesses, she said.

"We have experienced strong economic growth over the last two years, and particularly in 2015, and this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future."

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Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec said a lot of entrepreneurial people arriving in Tauranga from Auckland or overseas, were looking for business opportunities.

"Many are mature people who still have plenty of energy and ideas, and are willing to give it a go. Tauranga's a great place to be based, whether you're a small lifestyle business or an aspiring bigger business."

Small businesses were easy to set up but harder to convert to sustainable bigger businesses, he said.

"There's a big learning curve and lots of blocks to put in place before your small business can scale up. So a lot depends on your willingness to keep learning and adapting as the business owner. And also taking good advice, you can't do it all on your own."

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Chamber of Commerce small business chairman Steven Farrant said Tauranga offered a superb location for business and a lifestyle that was amazing.

"Due to advances in technology, many business owners can essentially choose where to base themselves and, although the success of their business is key, another major factor is lifestyle and work/life balance - and Tauranga scores very high here."

Small businesses often remained small and in many cases were owned and operated by one or two people, he said, which came with challenges.

"As a result, they are time poor and juggling everything at work, alongside everything at home and with the family. It can also be lonely and at times feel isolated and overwhelming."

But small businesses also helped define and shape the personality and character of an area, and certainly helped ignite and unite the community, he said. "For example, the Little Big Markets and Events, that we are blessed to have here in Tauranga, are wonderful because of the passionate, creative, unique and innovative individuals and small businesses that make them happen and keep them evolving, exciting and relevant."

Enterprise Angels connected experienced investors with entrepreneurs and innovators.

Executive director Bill Murphy said there had been great progress made in Tauranga and it would continue to strengthen and grow.

Plans were also afoot to launch a regional private equity fund that provided infrastructure and support. An information memorandum had been created and it was seeking investment funds from institutions not individuals.

"We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of investable industries, over the past four to five years in particular, which is great because we have the largest angel group and they are willing to invest in local start-ups, but they have to be good enough to invest in and that certainly is getting better."

Tauranga Maori Business Association chairman Mike Minnell said according to the Maori Economic Strategy report in 2010, Maori contribution to Tauranga City was $256 million. The five biggest activities from the Maori economy in Tauranga were property and business services ($48 million), health and community services ($43 million), manufacturing ($23 million), storage ($22 million) and construction ($22 million).

Mr Minnell said there had been growth in Maori businesses and authorities which was good for Tauranga. The association's main membership comprised small-to-medium businesses and its email data base was 120.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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