Carl Salmons was one of the first to make contact with Priority One's business attraction services in 2012 when he relocated to set up the Tauranga branch of Auckland's Birch Surveyors.

Since then the firm had grown from a one-man shop to now employing nine staff, almost double that of a year ago, with its improved fortunes reflecting the changes in Tauranga.

In addition, the Bay's lifestyle appeal had made it easy to attract talented staff, some of whom were also servicing work in Auckland and the Waikato.

"Carl relocated to open an office here for Birch Surveyors at a time when things were very quiet here," said Priority One chief executive Andrew Coker.


"We were still feeling the pinch from the GFC so it was a brave move on their part at the time, but a well-planned one with the right guy."

Mr Salmons said the firm had identified Tauranga as a positive growth area for expansion. He also had family connections in the Bay. But he soon discovered the local economy was in a worse state than the firm had anticipated.

"The economy was dormant and there was very little building work on," he said.

"Local surveyors were all short of work and most firms had laid off staff. It was pretty dire."

For the first six months he held the fort, then added a town planner. And by late 2013 and increasingly in 2014, survey work began to pick up. "It was a function of the economy starting to move and confidence in property and development beginning to return."

The driver had been the rise in Auckland property values as it had grown into a metropolitan Pacific city that had attracted immigrants and investment. Short supply had driven up property values and in turn fed the outflow of Aucklanders to Tauranga where they could buy two houses for the price of the one they sold, he said.

"There's a lot more confidence in investment in Tauranga and property has become scarce so people have been encouraged to subdivide and create more sections because of the demand."

Mr Salmons said while there was less development pressure in outlying areas, anywhere within half an hour's drive of Tauranga was running hot at the moment.

The firm's staff included a mix of surveyors, planners and support workers.

"Because of the Bay's lifestyle attractions, we've found it really easy to grow our office in Tauranga by attracting highly skilled staff who can also service work outside the Bay," said Mr Salmons.

He estimated about 80 per cent of the firm's work base was across the Bay, with the balance helping service clients in Auckland and the Waikato.


* Birch Surveyors was founded in 1989 by Kevin Birch, son of former National Party minister Bill Birch, who is a consultant to the firm.