Callaghan Innovation programme manager Elizabeth McInnes visited Hawke's Bay yesterday ahead of a fourth round of the High Performance Work Initiative for 10 Hawke's Bay businesses.
"Hawke's Bay's productivity per capita is below the national average, which in turn is below the OECD average," Business Hawke's Bay chief executive Susan White said.
"It has been estimated that Hawke's Bay's industry could improve the productivity of people by more than $400 million."
To be eligible for the programme a business must employ more than 10 staff, be involved in exporting or the export supply chain, co-fund the cost and have "a desire to grow".
It was delivered by local business-improvement consultants Smarter, Better, Faster.
Director Glenn Manahi said the programme was customised - businesses taking place included manufacturing, engineering, packaging, by-product processing and service industries.
"Through streamlined processes we work with businesses one-on-one through the course of the year to uncover the waste in the business, create efficiencies and deliver real, simple results," he said.
Other productivity programmes are also available to local businesses, such as Better by Lean, a two-day workshop and coaching programme also funded through Callaghan. The next workshop is scheduled for May 2016 at the Hawke's Bay Business Hub in Napier's Ahuriri.
Mrs White said it would appeal to larger exporters needing to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. Getting as many businesses as possible through improvement programmes was a big opportunity for the region.
"By turning these statistics around we will improve Hawke's Bay's standard of living and grow our economy."