Brian Kelly: Region moves in right direction

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Last Tuesday, Priority One brought together more than 200 of the region's business and civic leaders at an event called Shaping Our Future: Business Summit 2012.

It was, as Priority One's chief executive, Andrew Coker, said, a timely event and a great chance for business leaders to look to the future.

I find it encouraging when I hear about positive things happening in our city and region and this event was extremely positive.

Most business people will admit that the last few years have been challenging having to contend with the world-wide global crisis and continually hearing about and dealing with a lot of negativity.

According to Mr Coker, there are some good things happening in the Bay and there is much confidence in our region. Local councils are beginning to invest in the region's infrastructure and I, like Mr Coker, think it's great.

Take the building situation in Tauranga at the moment.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Three new office buildings are being built or have just opened. There's the Sharpe Tudhope office building on the corner of Devonport Rd and First Ave and, just a short distance down the road, the new office complex on the corner of Cameron and Elizabeth. Then there's the new BNZ Building further down Cameron Road and construction has started on the old Pizza Hut site for an office complex; all fantastic signs that our area is moving in the right direction.

Then there was the news last weekend of Paul Adams' Carrus Corp taking over The Lakes sub-division and developing more residential sites. It's all positive news for the region.

I know it's not all beer and skittles out there. We also hear about businesses closing, namely several car yards, with one in particular that has been loyal and local for a long time.

I heard someone say once that it's far better to look forward than back, you only get a sore neck looking back.

So many positives about living and doing business in our region were pointed out at the Priority One summit. One of the key outcomes of the Tuesday summit was the business plan that's been developed for new business growth. Mr Coker spoke on the attractions about living and working in the region.

"We have competitive labour and land costs, high-quality IT infrastructure and a very progressive port that is fast becoming New Zealand best, if it isn't already," he told the audience.

With the problems facing the Ports of Auckland in recent times, and just this week a story on the price of housing sky rocketing in Auckland, more businesses and people are looking at relocating to the Bay. And it's not just Auckland that has problems.

Hundreds of Australian jobs have been shifted to New Zealand as producers there try to avoid the impact of high wages, a soaring dollar and restrictive labour laws.

Heinz Australia recently scrapped more than 300 jobs across three states in favour of its large plant in Hastings. Maybe the other man's grass is not greener after all.

There's a lot going for our city and it encourages me to see the development of our waterfront - finally. Also events.

The news recently that the TECT Arena at Bay Park will be hosting a netball tests featuring New Zealand and Australia and the construction of the cricket pavilion at Blake Park could also mean some international games. Hope so.

There was more positive news during this past week.

The Bay of Plenty was ranked one of the top-performing regions in economic development in the country last year. The Bay of Plenty had the highest employment and GDP growth for 2011 and the fastest growing medium-term GDP.

We are fortunate to have a group such as Priority One working to make our region the best in New Zealand and it was great to talk to Mr Coker and feel the real positives coming from our civic leaders. Most of us have been busy with our sleeves rolled up during the past few years, trying desperately to make a buck. It has been tough, but it's nice to hear that there is an organisation out there that is working extremely hard to make the Bay a better place.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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