An attractive proposition

By Alexander Speirs

Ateed looks for value-added investment and more multinational interest in Auckland

The key is to look at corporates as key contributors to the community and for their ability to unlock the economy - David Caselli. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The key is to look at corporates as key contributors to the community and for their ability to unlock the economy - David Caselli. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"The Auckland Plan has about $60 billion worth of spend in it. We can't deliver that vision without capital markets working," says David Caselli, General Manager Business Attraction & Investment at Ateed.

"That's the key to delivering the plan."

Caselli was brought on board by Ateed CEO Brett O'Riley as one of a number of appointments to enhance the economic agency's ability to implement and execute the Auckland Economic Development Strategy.

Over the next 10 years, Ateed has been tasked with attracting $1 billion of investment from knowledge intensive and high value-added activities companies.

Such companies offer intangible benefits to local businesses such as market experience, R&D capabilities and knowledge of global supply chains.

"There's a role here in welcoming large corporates. At the moment they're probably thought of as rate-payers but the key is to look at them as key contributors to the community and for their ability to unlock the economy," says Caselli.

Ateed also wants to attract 10 new multinationals from the three key sectors to establish in Auckland over the next 10 years.

"We're proactively looking for target companies that fit our competitive profile - who are the major players that aren't here, what are their strategies, what's the pitch and then we can start approaching them in a co-ordinated manner with NZTE."

Caselli explains that multinationals already in Auckland will be the focus of a new aftercare initiative to ensure they are are looked after in the hope of facilitating further investment. "There's a rich tapestry of US multinationals already invested in Auckland with an emerging number of Chinese corporates joining them," he adds.

"IBM, Oracle, Hewett Packard for example - it's easier to get them to spend an additional $100 million expanding than it is to get a new corporate to inject $100 million."

When it comes to sourcing foreign direct investment (FDI) Caselli has his sights on Australia, China and the United States.

The Government has used incentives to attract the foreign film industry, but Auckland will not be going down that route. The trend of companies leaving when incentives dries up doesn't fit with the long-term vision.

Ateed will instead focus on strengthening public equity markets and making the optimal use of council assets. "What we will do is stimulate debate within the council family of 'what does the council own, what is the best use of its capital and how can it unlock the long term plan?"'

Caselli - who has decades of experience in investment banking behind him - is looking to leverage his substantial experience in China to make new gains.

He has made quick work of establishing an agency network of advisers throughout the three Chinese cities prioritised for Auckland: Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. The network is made up of experts from within the three growth sectors and works exclusively for Auckland.

It will later be expanded to include Ningbo and Qingdao, with plans to leverage sister city relationships into stronger business relationships.

"We have a rich cultural relationship but establishing an economic and trade aspect has been lacking. Looking at the how the cities operate and the substantial trading enterprises the cities own, I think there's a real opportunity. "

Caselli's hypothesis will be tested when Ningbo brings a visiting business delegation to Auckland.

He acknowledges public reaction to foreign investment could prove to be a challenge moving forward.

"I think that we will have some cultural rebalancing to do, particularly around accepting capital from China." Changing public attitudes will require strong leadership from Auckland's political leaders, working with the community and stimulating an appetite for change.

Attracting entrepreneurs who can lead the transactions and globalise ideas is a priority. Caselli says this is now a weak point in the domestic business community.

Selling Auckland as a destination and getting prospects to buy into Mayor Len Brown's vision for Auckland to be the world's most livable city is critical.

Ateed's experience as a tourism promoter holds great value to this end. "The destination message that we've been good at promoting from a visitor attraction standpoint has some real resonance from a business perspective."


ATEED'S TARGETS

Capital markets have a significant role to play in ensuring the goals set out in Auckland's Economic Development Plan are reached. Early stage businesses seeking capital and are investment-ready have been targeted.

Three key sectors - information and computer technology, food and beverage processing, and health technologies - have been targeted following analysis to determine high-growth areas where Auckland holds a competitive advantage.

10-YEAR GOALS

• $1 billion of new knowledge-intensive and high-value activities;

•10 new multinational corporations;

PRIORITY SECTORS:

•ICT (7.3 per cent of Auckland's GDP, 4.9 per cent of employment)

•Food & beverage (4.5 per cent of Auckland's GDP, 3.7 per cent of employment)

•Health technology (2.2 per cent of Auckland's GDP, 1.1 per cent of employment).

- NZ Herald

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