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New support centre launched to buffer Hamilton businesses

Hamilton businesses will from today benefit from a new phone-based support centre that will provide advice and assistance to organisations affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Targeting small to medium sized firms, the Waikato Business Support initiative is funded by Hamilton City Council and led by Waikato’s regional economic development agency, Te Waka.

The new service is part of cohesive and growing efforts by the Waikato community to support businesses hit hard by COVID-19 Alert Level 4 and the lockdown period, together with a focus on business recovery beyond lockdown.

Hamilton City Council is investing up to $165,000 to fund the service as part of its 12 point recovery plan released on 27 March.

Council’s Economic Development Committee Chair Ryan Hamilton says the phone support service was a great first step, but he would continue pushing for other initiatives to help small and medium-sized businesses “weather the storm”.

“Small business makes up by far the majority of New Zealand’s economic activity and those businesses are essential to keeping Hamilton going. They employ thousands and thousands of good people who all support families and if they fall over, there will be real economic and social damage done. Council is continuing to explore what else we may be able to do in this space.”

Te Waka CEO Michael Bassett-Foss says the Waikato business community is strong and will continue to rally to protect its own from the COVID-19 fallout.

“The economic situation is changing rapidly.  It’s been important these past few weeks to act decisively, move quickly and set up the Waikato Business Support initiative as soon as possible.

“Te Waka’s job is to help Waikato businesses survive, revive and grow post COVID-19. That means pooling our resources and working together with others to accelerate business recovery and enhance business capability.

“This project is also about taking a longer-term view and thinking about reviving economic activity and growth in the region post COVID-19.”

Bassett-Foss says the Waikato Business Support initiative strengthens Te Waka’s existing Business Growth Service. It offers Hamilton business owners access to a first point of contact, with the knowledge and skills to assist them to access an even broader range of skills and expertise at a time when they need it most.

“Waikato Business Support will provide an effective way to connect Hamilton businesses to local and national government support resources. It will also reassure business owners that help and resources are available to help them navigate their way through this uncertain time.”

Waikato Business Support will be manned by an experienced team of coordinators who are all business professionals themselves.

Initially, these coordinators will carry out a ‘wellness’ check by proactively calling local businesses. This call will involve ascertaining how businesses are coping, where they are at in a continuity-resilience-recovery cycle, what support they have already received, and what support they may still be able to access.

The Waikato Business Support team will provide support over phone or videoconference and will put businesses in touch with the appropriate Government support agencies when necessary. This team will also help business owners complete applications for Government business support packages.

Te Waka will continue to work with partner agencies as it rolls out this service to Hamilton businesses.

It is also talking with other councils about partnering with them and extending the service to other districts in the Waikato.

Businesses can also call Waikato Business Support for help on 07 929 4673 WBZ HOPE or visit the website to register for a call back.

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