Hawke's Bay is a step away from becoming a rock-star regional economy after a new report claimed the region was "knocking on the door" of attaining a five-star rating.
The Latest ASB Regional Economic Scoreboard report rated Hawke's Bay as having a four-star economy - the nation's sixth best. However, with the region topping the house price growth stakes nationwide and strong retail growth over the last quarter of 2017, it indicated there could be even better things to come.
The report showed that house sales (up 15.7 per cent), retail sales (up 4.4 per cent to $581 million for the year.) and new car sales (up 14 per cent) were all strong over the last quarter of 2017.
"All up, it's a strong quarter for the region and leaves the Bay knocking on the door of a five-star rating and with the region's main industries firing, we expect the good
times to keep rolling over 2018," ASB rural economist Nathan Penny said.
Speaking to Hawke's Bay Today, Mr Penny said there were already signs the regional economy could be about to go up another level.
"Hawke's Bay's on a solid run. I guess it's about comparisons, how it's going compared to some of those other economies that have got those five stars - the likes of Otago, which in this case is essentially code for Queenstown, and places like Nelson and Tasman.
"Probably the thing that stands out is the labour market is not growing as fast as it is in those regions. So, we'd probably need to see a little bit more jobs growth - there are hints that may be coming."
Construction levels were up three per cent and Mr Penny said one point that could push the economy up another level would be how the region's strong construction industry translated into job creation.
"That's one that has been driving job creation in some of those other [five-star-rated] places."
Horticulture was also going well, and had the potential for jobs growth over the first quarter of this year, he said.
Hastings District Council economic development and urban affairs committee chairman Damon Harvey said there were many positives.
"If we can ensure the horticulture and viticulture sectors can get their fruit harvested despite a labour shortage, then this will point towards an ongoing strengthening.
"New housing sites that have all been sold in Frimley are soon to be ready to build on and in the hands of builders, so that will also boost the Hastings economy.
"Furthermore, Hawke's Bay has the carrot being dangled in front of it with the Government's Provincial Growth Fund opportunity."
Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wayne Walford said an increase in service and education would be the key indicators that moved Hawke's Bay from a simmering economy to a "steaming" economy.
"Hawke's Bay's general economic optimism breeds its own success.
"The perceived success of many organisations across a wide range of industries has led to the ideal that 'Hawke's Bay is worth investing in'. That in turn leads to a general confidence amongst second-tier companies. Such confidence breeds economic success."
Mr Walford said the primary sector was the region's "golden goose" , the improved performance of which was the result of investments in education and service.
"Making sure we have businesses that are well-tuned, providing the best products the market requires, will increase our attractiveness to businesses and skilled people and move Hawke's Bay to a five-star economy. "
Napier City Business Inc manager Zoe Barnes said there was a continuing trend in Napier CBD, with the hospitality and accommodation sectors both reporting strong increases for "some months now".
"This is not a trend that looks likely to halt anytime soon.
"This uplift in spend in the food and beverage space is a trend that has been seen worldwide and Napier CBD is rising to the occasion with new cafes and restaurants opening regularly.
"As town centres move towards becoming 'experience centres' this is an industry we need to continue to look after and grow."