It has been a remarkable three months. As sentiment turns rapidly, we are focusing both on how we continue our focused workplan alongside what we might need to do so support emerging and material business issues in the region.
Remaining agile is a priority as is a clear and slightly ruthless focus – all emerging trends in the current environment. But despite the negatives, there are also real opportunities emerging in the region which will support economic growth and wellbeing. Continuing to focus on the positives must remain a clear priority for us all!
People are key.
We were very pleased last week to be able to announce the appointment of Fiona Carrick as Chief Executive with effect 1 July. Fiona has an extremely strong commercial and stakeholder relationship background, most recently with senior group roles within Fonterra. Read more about her appointment here.
We’ve also appointed a new Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Bridget Crabb; Marcelo Mieres to support our regional engagement mahi; and are about to recruit a new workforce development role to support our work in this important area. People, relationships, and knowledge are key to our success, so we are excited to be evolving our team to better serve our mission.
We are also continuing to build on our collaborative effort with others in the region – including continued work with the Regional Housing Initiative, the Waikato Wellbeing Project, the Waikato Pacific Business Network, and most recently the conclusion of an MOU with SODA Inc.
Our 2022 Sentiment Survey paints a challenging picture for the Waikato business environment, with a significant drop in business confidence, major skills shortages, and clear pressure on input costs and pricing. The overarching theme emerging is that respondents are in survival mode and focussed on short term issues – with cost pressures front of mind for the majority.
Waikato businesses are more confident in the performance of their own businesses than they are in the regional or national economy - reflecting increasing uncertainty. Encouragingly, Waikato businesses are still intending to hire despite the negative sentiment – signalling an underlying belief that ‘we’ll get through this’. However, the short-term focus comes at the cost of looking to the future. A luxury perhaps, but the current environment demands innovation and brave thinking.
Bottom line, it’s an extremely challenging time for businesses with rapidly rising inflation, interest rates continuing to scale in response and with ongoing pressures of supply chain and people. But our region remains better placed than many. In the coming months, fortune will favour the brave, and businesses that can juggle the short-term response alongside adopting a future focussed approach will in our view be better placed to prosper in a period of transformation.
How Te Waka adds value
Over the last few months, we have really focussed into how Te Waka can best add value to our stakeholders and the wider economic development ecosystem. We have identified some clear focus areas: Firstly, we must be a knowledge-based organisation. Secondly, taking a leadership position in advocacy is an area where we can add value to our stakeholders and fill a gap between local and central government.
As such it is vital that we advocate for the region on issues that matter (with both local and central Government). Creating connections is equally important – connecting people, capital and ideas that grow the Waikato. Finally, building on the last point, acting as a facilitator in partnership with others in the ecosystem to advance projects and initiatives that develop the Waikato economy.
Hamish Bell | Chair