New and expanding businesses in the Bay are boosting jobs, new figures show, with more in the pipeline as companies eye the Bay.
Employee numbers at the Tauriko Business Estate have jumped 71 per cent to 1586 since 2014 while Priority One is working with 33 companies that could base their operations in the Bay.
Data from the Tauriko Business Estate showed in April 2016 1586 employees were at the estate compared to 926 in April 2014, while the number of businesses had soared from 34 to 52 over the same timeframes.
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Commercial manager Rachel Emerson said it expected growth to continue and "are readying our 2017 titles now".
"We have plenty of land available for many years to come and this is really attractive to the larger-scale businesses looking to enter New Zealand or relocate."
About 50 per cent of the businesses that had been operational longer than 18 months had already expanded or needed to expand, she said.
Priority One business attraction manager Max Mason said since the commencement of the Tauranga Business Case campaign in 2012 it had engaged with 20 businesses that eventually established in the sub-region.
Priority One was currently working with a further 33 businesses that were at various stages in their consideration of the Western Bay of Plenty as a base for their operations.
"These have included IT/internet companies, import/distribution companies, manufacturing companies, food and beverage manufacturers, and those working in the professional services and marine/aquaculture sectors."
Strong interest had been registered from potential business relocations from around the country "but most significantly from Auckland".
Mr Mason said the Bay's competitive advantages included the availability of reasonably priced business land, the competitiveness and efficiency of the Port of Tauranga and access to international markets, proximity to the highly populous central and upper North Island and "our ability to attract the skilled and talented people that businesses need due to our great lifestyle".
However Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said the rapidly expanding residential property and house prices "could increase to a degree that they are unaffordable to many of the people we would like to bring to the area.
"This would result in employers having difficulty employing both skilled and unskilled staff, causing their business to operate at less than maximum productivity."
In addition, the increase in desirability of Tauranga and the Western Bay as a place to live would put pressure on some key infrastructure.
"As a sub-region we have planned well for future growth and there are some key roading projects under way to ease any hot spots that may experience congestion at peak times, however these may not be completed before we start to feel a bit of a pinch."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec said attracting existing businesses to Tauranga was very important, as it sped up economic growth and added new opportunities to the region, he said. "It's a bit like getting a bonus win in Lotto.
"Trying to grow our own economy organically from within our own resource base would be a much slower process without external investment and new businesses being attracted here."
"Tauranga needs diversity, depth and scale to grow beyond our current business base. We also need to leverage innovation and new ideas from elsewhere in addition to what we generate locally."
But it was a tough game attracting established businesses to relocate to the region, he said and "these businesses know they have lots of choices, and there are sometimes other incentives on offer".
"Quality of lifestyle, amenities and cultural attractions are often deciding factors at an individual level. This is what Tauranga needs to work on."
"We believe Tauranga makes a very compelling business case for any business considering relocation, especially if it has export potential or is looking for a strategic location outside of Auckland."
"The work that Priority One is doing in this space is absolutely critical to position and package us as the location of choice."
Colliers International Tauranga managing director Simon Clark said the Tauriko Estate was often favoured by businesses because "there is a lot of new build opportunity" and logistically it was close to Auckland, Hamilton and Rotorua.
Papamoa was booming in the residential property market but had not really taken off on the commercial or industrial side while there was no new land available at Mount Maunganui, he said.
However Mr Clark said vacancy rates in office and industrial buildings were dropping. "People feel more confident on signing leases on buildings because they are very optimistic and that is great."
Last year was a record for Colliers International Tauranga with $115 million worth of commercial sales. The company had already reached $85 million this year - with at least another $10 million under contract, he said.