Bay business future has never looked brighter

By Roger Moroney

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Tim McKimm (left) and Ray McKimm,  Ahuriri Business Park developers in front of the Art Deco era former Rothmans building that is being redeveloped.  PHOTO/Warren Buckland HBT16333103
Tim McKimm (left) and Ray McKimm, Ahuriri Business Park developers in front of the Art Deco era former Rothmans building that is being redeveloped. PHOTO/Warren Buckland HBT16333103

On the developing business front as well as the job creation front things have never been better.

"It has never been brighter in the 10 years we have been here," Napier-based Big Save managing director and business proponent Ray McKimm said, adding that a huge re-development of the former British American Tobacco (BAT) site in Ahuriri underlined that - big time.

At this stage, due to confidentiality agreements with the business involved, about two thirds of the building, which is presently being re-fitted, is set to be taken up by a major company, for a business which Mr McKimm said would create between 40 to 70 jobs.

"I can't say any more at this stage," he said.

"But it is happening and it [the fitting out for the new venture] is set to be carried out by May/June next year ."

He said the contracts were being signed, the meetings and negotiations were going well, and that what was being planned was "an incredibly exciting" development for Ahuriri, and the city.

"It is under way and it is one of the largest developments in Hawke's Bay," he said, adding that the monetary figure was around the $26 million mark.

So it was effectively a "watch this space" situation, although he was able to fill in some gaps about what was being developed for the other third of the BAT site which was being completely re-developed.

"It will be the first urban winery in Australasia and it is also under way," he said, adding it would likely to be up and operational in mid-March next year.

"It is very exciting."

Mr McKimm said Hawke's Bay was on a roll, one that was gathering pace.

"We have never had so many inquiries from out of town - we have never been busier in dealing with people."

He said the inquiries revolved about two features - business and lifestyle.

Surveys and questionnaires which had been carried out in Auckland asked what would be the best place they would consider and like to work and live in.

In most cases Napier is at the top, or second.

"You can't argue with the environment created here - great weather, great schools, great wine and in Napier we have the best water."

It is the lifestyle factor which he said had attracted another major business to look at shifting shop to Napier.

Mr McKimm said they had been working on the plan for "some time" and it was coming together.

While unable to comment in detail about it "at this time" Mr McKimm said it was a company involved in the graphics and animation industry, and employed about 200 people.

Of that number about 60 or 70 were looking to come to the Bay from Auckland.

"It will be one of the biggest movements out of a major city into a regional area."

It was not just IT that was targeting a new home in the Bay however.

Manufacturing and logistics companies were also touching base with Mr McKimm and Business Hawke's Bay.

The region was a top prospect for a business to work out of as it had the required infrastructure in place, and that lifestyle attraction.

"We have the housing and we have the good schools - it is all part of the matrix they look at."

There was also the import and export factor.

"We have such a very efficient port here."

What had been one of the greatest challenges for the region had been jobs, but that was beginning to turn around.

Mr McKimm said many parents would like to see their children return to their home city and region but a lack of jobs had prevented that.

"But we are creating jobs here - that is changing."

The manufacturing industries, the pipfruit and the wine industry were strong factors in what was an increasingly promising long-term package for the Bay, he said.

The McKimms had seen the potential of Hawke's Bay and accordingly set up here in 2006 after buying the 5.4ha BAT site - shifting their Big Save business headquarters there the following year.

They then set about attracting business to the expanding Ahuriri hub, and within five years had taken in 55 new tenants, with 43 of them taking on more staff.

Big Save itself took on 16 more people.

"We have absolutely no regrets about moving here - not one negative at all," Mr McKimm said.

"The Napier City Council have been superb and I don't think things have been brighter in the 10 years we have been here."

Developing the business and employment potential for Napier and the region was no overnight mission.

The under-wraps major development for the BAT site had been under negotiations for about two years, Mr McKimm said.

About the same time it took to get the Business Hubs sorted and started.

"I do like a challenge," he said.

"Hey, it's fun," he added with a smile.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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