It was interesting to see the chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce of our biggest city recently recommending that Marlborough invest in its region’s economic development.
Auckland Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said economic development is something that local government needs to invest in – and that it was happening well in Marlborough.
He’d been looking at the work that the District Council is doing to try and bring together a vision and a series of actions to generate economic development in this region.
It’s early days yet. The Council is really still in the research phase. Some draft ideas are being brought together. Some of the information that is emerging has surprised me. For example, the economic value to our region of the sector that supports other businesses and industries both here and outside Marlborough – the consultants and financial and business advisory sector. That group generates a substantial chunk of Marlborough’s GDP. Some of them are among the increasing number of people who choose to live here but work away from the region. From an economic perspective this is important as it brings revenue into Marlborough from the outside.
The Council’s research is suggesting the best way forward for our region might be to encourage us to become a value-driven, rather than volume-based economy. Easier said than done of course but we are learning how more innovation and more sophisticated commercialising and marketing of our wonderful Marlborough products can generate more prosperity for the region.
But it’s not all about dollars. Environmental sensitivity and the quality of community also form part of the bigger economic development picture. Would people want to come and live here if it wasn’t a great place to be? So any development must include these very important elements.
Over the coming months we’ll be sharing more of this information with the broader community. It’s a discussion that has to be held across the community because economic development is not something the Council alone will generate. A presentation of our work to date will be held in Picton soon. I hope it will provoke interest and inspiration because the momentum will come only when all our different sectors start connecting with each other. The Council can only plan and facilitate; the future is very much in the hands of the community itself.
Council has already taken a few steps in that support role; it has set up its Smart Business Marlborough service at the Council, to streamline responses to new and existing businesses wanting to expand. With the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce it has arranged a public forum, on Friday 10 August at Blenheim’s Convention Centre, to show Marlborough businesses and workers what kind of opportunities might exist for them down in Christchurch with the post-quake rebuild. A range of speakers who’re involved on the ground with rebuild projects will be there and there’ll also be a chance to speak directly to them afterwards. It’s a free event and I’d urge people to attend. This is one of the ways the Council is able to ‘invest’ in economic development as the Auckland Chamber chief suggests; helping put people in touch with opportunity.