The Waikato region now has an economic development agency and its first order of business is bringing together 250 of the region’s key people to determine major initiatives.
The Waikato Regional Economic Development Agency (Waikato REDA) came into existence on 1 July; it is a limited liability company, owned by the Waikato Regional Economic Development Trust. Waikato REDA has a current establishment board and will call for expressions of interest in a skills-based, permanent board before the end of the year.
Waikato businessman Dallas Fisher chairs the Waikato REDA establishment board and says the agency aims to become a front door for the region. That applies to “Wellington” and investors keen to understand and talk to the Waikato, and to local businesses and organisations wanting to help tell the region’s story.
“This is an important time for the Waikato – we need to take a strategic approach to getting us up to that next level. We do relatively well, but let’s face it, we’ve suffered from a low profile and subsequent under-funding.”
Mr Fisher has previously chaired Waikato Means Business, the region’s 20-year economic development strategy, created with input from civic, business and Māori leaders. As well as taking strong direction from Waikato Means Business, Waikato REDA has taken a lead from the Waikato Plan, an overarching strategic plan developed by the region’s leaders that has targeted investment and economic development as two of its priorities.
The new agency acknowledges all the research and hard work that’s been done in the past few years, Mr Fisher says, and is proud to be standing on the shoulders of some great people and organisations. “We’re ready to take on that challenge of bringing everything together and acting as the lead voice for the region.”
Waikato REDA’s first activity is an invitation-only economic development summit at the end of August. “We’ll have 250 key people in the room, helping us determine the major priorities and initiatives for the new organisation.”
At the end of the summit, Waikato REDA will have a list of economic development initiatives that will have the greatest impact on the Waikato and its people, and the agency will work with government and funders to make those happen.
Waikato REDA will be based at Innovation Park, at the Ruakura campus in Hamilton, with WIPLtd CEO, Stuart Gordon in the establishment CEO role. A recruitment drive is underway for a permanent CEO.
Mr Fisher says Waikato REDA is very deliberately being built on the work of the Business Growth Services team, under the Waikato Innovation Park umbrella. The team works closely with NZTE and Callaghan Innovation to help grow businesses across the region, and will now be part of Waikato REDA.
“We’re continuing with this model of being out in the towns as it’s a great model and we know it makes a difference to those businesses,” he says.
“So, while we’ll be talking to the region and all our supporters about the major economic development initiatives we’ll be undertaking on a larger scale, people can be confident that we’re continuing the on-the-ground help that’s so important.”