John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Firms eyeing Tauranga promise hundreds of jobs for the region

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More than 520 new jobs and $111 million of capital investment could be pumped into Tauranga if prospective new businesses take the plunge and shift to the city.

Tauranga's economic development agency Priority One was currently working with 23 firms interested in moving to the region.

Business relocations manager Max Mason said that a company working in the IT/technology sector would be deciding fairly soon on whether to relocate its 150 staff to Tauranga.

''We are working with them and expect them to make a decision within the next few weeks,'' he said.

Mr Mason said another technology company with a potential of 150 staff was a long-term prospect. It was looking to consolidate scattered sites around the North Island into a single location.

However compared with the manufacturing sector, the potential capital investment by the two technology companies was a small $2.4 million.

The massive $90 million boost of potential capital investment by the manufacturing sector over the past month had been largely driven by Priority One's negotiations with a major chemicals-related company reaching a more advanced stage.

Mr Mason said they had also been approached by a natural cosmetics firm based in the South Island that wanted to establish a sales presence in the North Island.

''They have decided to establish an office in Tauranga rather than Auckland due to the competitive advantages of being based here, including access to the highly populated Central North Island.''

Mr Mason said attracting businesses was a long-term game that needed a lot of patience while firms went through decision-making processes. The building consent process took the most time although locating suitable commercial or office space could also take a while.

Success stories over the past year included at least half a dozen firms that would soon start trading. Although several were now building in Tauranga, Mr Mason was not permitted to name them.

Reasons for confidentiality included competitors and marketing, with Priority One's success in helping to attract new businesses reliant on 100 per cent confidentiality, he said.

Mr Mason said there was a steady flow of businesses interested in relocating to Tauranga, with more and more basing their decisions on it being a good business location rather than owners attracted by the region's lifestyle.

The ''pull'' factors were Tauranga's lifestyle attributes while the ''push'' factors included Auckland's congestion and transport costs from the South Island.

Priority One's initial meeting with many of the firms considering moving to the Bay felt a lot like a job interview, he said.

''The business owner usually has a few possible cities in mind and wants us to make a strong case for why they should choose Tauranga or the Western Bay.''

Mr Mason was in the final couple of weeks of his job with Priority One before the successful election candidate switched to becoming a full-time councillor.

Tauriko Business Estate's commercial manager Rachel Emerson said up to 10 per cent of the businesses that had relocated to the estate were from out of town, including Brother International and Morgan Furniture. The rest were relocated from elsewhere in the Western Bay.

She said they promoted themselves to businesses looking to relocate and often made a joint pitch with Priority One. The estate had just released a 12 hectare block on to the market, with the total area zoned industrial now about half sold.

Tauranga's new mayor Greg Brownless said the city needed more diverse and better, higher-paid jobs. ''Even if half of the business relocations eventuated, it would be pretty good.''

A lot of younger families would return to Tauranga if they could get reasonable work. ''Not only can people come here and enjoy the natural advantages, but they can get a good job,'' he said.

Former Mayor Stuart Crosby said relocations were very important because they demonstrated confidence in Tauranga and brought new skills and new people to boost the community including schools, sports groups and the arts.

Married couples often shifted to Tauranga on the back of one of the spouses coming to a job, but the challenge was for the other partner to find employment. ''The more diversity we have, the easier for both couples to find gainful employment.''

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