A multimillion-dollar project at Newnham Park Innovation Centre is being driven by the strong growth of its business tenants who are leaders in their field on the global export market.
Director Ian Jeffrey says big expansion plans are on the horizon, including new buildings for Robotics Plus and Heilala Vanilla, as well as a separate two-storey office block.
The developments are being done in two phases and are part of the ethos of Newnham Park - established in the early 2000s with a focus on horticulture innovation.
Steve Saunders, co-founder of Newnham Park Innovation Centre, co-founder and chairman of Robotics Plus and founder of Plus Group of Companies, said it was "exciting to see Newnham Park continuing to grow and fulfilling our original vision to have like-minded growth and innovation businesses together on the same site".
Foundation tenants included the Plus Group of Companies, marketer Southern Produce, pure vanilla producer Heilala Vanilla and Kiwifruitz.
Saunders said a lot of businesses had grown and succeeded at the Newnham Park over time.
"As some businesses have grown, like Heilala Vanilla, we have developed new purpose-built buildings for them while other businesses have progressed from the site and moved on somewhere else in the ecosystem.
"We're now planning the development of a new building for Robotics Plus as they continue to grow fast as demand increases for their agricultural robotics. The park is a great site for small businesses as there is room for future growth and it's exciting to welcome new tenants."
Robotics Plus had been growing fast, he said and employee numbers had jumped from 12 in 2017 to more than 60 now.
"The new building will allow us to move some teams from the existing building into the new space which will make it easier for them to work together.
"Our strong growth has been driven by the success of our innovation and growing demand from around the world.
"Over the past two years, Robotics Plus has launched two commercial products, entered the US and European markets, completed a US$10 million Series A investment with Yamaha Motor Company, and has a number of other projects under development."
Heilala Vanilla co-founder Jennifer Boggiss said being "part of innovation that's happening on-site, you can't help but feed off the buzz".
"With a number of like-minded companies who are thriving in the horticulture, food processing and robotics space there's always a sense of excitement around."
The company has grown from small beginnings and now has a team of 15 and exports to seven countries.
Boggiss was looking forward to moving into larger premises which would include warehouse, storage, production and manufacturing space.
"The new purpose-built space will ensure we're geared up for our future growth."
Breaking into the United States market, partnering with Bake From Scratch Magazine in the US, the world's largest community of passionate, and engaged bakers have been highlights while featuring in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Bon Appetit were also "pinch me" moments, she said.
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said Tauranga punched above its weight for innovative companies and "we have some great local exemplars like the group at Newnham Park".
"What many of these companies have in common is the mindset where they seek to solve the big global problems – whether they are people, environmental or socially related.''
Tauranga already had a great reputation as a collaborative and innovative city and the Newnham Park expansion would further enhance this, he said.
"Physical locations are needed for innovative companies to group together and this expansion will help provide space for more companies to grow."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley agreed and said Tauranga had a strong cluster of innovative businesses.
"This is largely due to the collaborative nature of the local innovation sector choosing to support and grow other innovative businesses, rather than compete against them. This is a great example of that.
"It is thanks to a few individuals who have invested time and money to grow the sector to what it is today."
Since Covid-19, there had been a number of local innovators in the national spotlight showcasing the future of business.
"It is showing that Tauranga are not just talkers, we're also doers. These businesses are important role models for other ambitious companies.
"It teaches others that collaboration and relationships are very important. It also shows the importance for the region to create a place where talented, highly skilled people want to live and do business."
New kids on the block
A Tauranga, global cloud software company which plans to create up to 30 new jobs by 2022 is the newest tenant at Newnham Park Innovation Centre.
Tidy was established in 2010 and now has many thousands of users around the globe, from Australia to Zimbabwe. Tidy's software systems are used to run the day-to-day operations of a company; complementing and feeding into accounting software like New Zealand's own Xero.
Managing director Kevin Mann said the park was a perfect fit as the business outgrew its suburban Tauranga premises.
Tidy has 17 permanent staff and has continued to grow during the lockdown.
With revenue growth of 30 per cent last year and demand continuing to surge this year as many businesses rapidly switch to online digital solutions, Mann said he would probably need to create around 30 new positions in the next few years.
"These roles won't just be in software engineering – we'll also be hiring across marketing, sales and operations.
"We expect to have more than 50 employees in Tauranga by 2022. I'm now extremely confident we won't need to move our head office to a bigger city or offshore. We're helping prove that Tauranga can maintain a hub of world-class high-tech companies outside of Silicon Valley."
Mann says he originally envisaged he'd only be selling Tidy's cloud products overseas, but New Zealand businesses have been enthusiastic adopters of the technology.
Tidy's biggest market is Australia, and the company has also had marked success in the UK, although the uncertainty of Brexit has dented growth there in recent times. Clients span fields from mining and energy, to construction and confectionery.
Tidy also has a strategic relationship with Waikato University and offers internships to students at Auckland and Canterbury universities.