Though Len Brown is known for his social policy initiatives, his advocacy for business and infrastructure growth has earned him a positive reputation in the Manukau business world.

Not long after persuading Wynyard Wood to set up an East Tamaki branch, Brown helped set up the Greenmount East Tamaki Business Association (GETBA), now one of the biggest in the country.

While there were obvious networking benefits for the firm, another motivation was to help businesses on Otara's doorstep to grow and provide employment.

The city has undergone rapid growth during Brown's time on the council, with projects such as the billion-dollar Highbrook business park, motorway connection between the southern and Mangere motorways, the rail link to Manukau City Centre and the Manukau Institute of Technology campus and transport interchange at Hayman Park, and the huge Flat Bush housing development.

The council advocated for these projects and though Sir Barry Curtis led the charge, Brown was supportive and has contributed as mayor.

Goodman Property chief executive John Dakin found Brown helpful on issues such as land rezoning through the council. "He was very supportive of the vision and the standard of development we were seeking."

When Goodman met local resistance to its plans to open up motorway links to the area, Brown advised them to undertake proper consultation.

TelstraClear Events Centre chief executive Richard Jeffrey found him good to work with in the centre's planning and development.

"He could give us a grilling. He had the ability to tick off and analyse the detail and come back with the big picture straight away. And he could work councillors around the table to get everyone on the same page.

"He was quite firm, not just with us but with officers, making sure we got the best outcome."

But Brown has not always been popular with business people. He drew flak from GETBA members in the 1990s over council rates increases, and moves to substantially increase development levies drew the ire of property players.

"To his credit he listened to us and others in the development community and the council reviewed them," says Dakin. "That's all we can ask."

However, the controversy over Brown's council credit card use has damaged his reputation for transparency and he appears vulnerable under fire - a weakness which makes business types nervous.