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Hunt on for CEO to run new Waikato economic development agency

The Waikato’s economic development agency came into effect on 1 July and recruitment for a permanent CEO is already underway.

Dallas Fisher, who’s chairing the establishment board for Waikato Regional Economic Development Agency (Waikato REDA), says the search for a leader began in June, even before the agency was officially formed. 

Stuart Gordon, the CEO at Waikato Innovation Park Ltd where Waikato REDA will be based, is the agency’s establishment CEO and will hold the position until a permanent appointment is made. Applications for the new CEO close on 18 July; the board hopes to announce a new CEO by September. 

Waikato REDA is a limited liability company, owned by the Waikato Regional Economic Development Trust. It has a current establishment board and a permanent, skills-based board will come onstream later.

Mr Fisher says the new agency aims to become an obvious front door for the region, whether that’s for the government or investors keen to talk to the Waikato, or for local businesses and organisations wanting to help tell the region’s story.

“A CEO has to embody that, as well as bringing a huge variety of skills to the role. We’re looking for someone who is going to add significant value to the relationships we need to have, and who can bring that strategic approach to economic development in the region.”

Waikato REDA’s three high-level objectives are lifting economic performance for the region; attracting and retaining talent and investment; providing one voice for regional economic development in the Waikato.

“This is an important role for the Waikato, and indeed New Zealand,” Mr Fisher says. “If we can boost economic development in our region, the nation benefits as well. We see this leader as being able to significantly influence how well the Waikato can do through economic development – but that’s not enough on its own; they’ll also have to be someone who engages extremely well with people.”

Mr Fisher says the new economic development agency is very deliberately being built on the work of the Business Growth Services team, which has been part of Waikato Innovation Park. 

The team works closely with NZTE and Callaghan Innovation to help grow businesses across the Waikato region, and will now be part of Waikato REDA.

Waikato REDA has grown out of Waikato Means Business, the region’s 20-year economic development strategy, created with input from civic, business and Māori leaders. It has also taken strong direction from the Waikato Plan, an overarching strategic plan developed by the region’s leaders and which lists two of its priorities as targeted investment and economic development.

Mr Fisher says Waikato REDA acknowledges all the research and hard work that’s been done in the past few years, and he says the new agency 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.”

The new agency’s first order of business is bringing together 250 of the region’s key people in late August to determine major initiatives.

“This is an important time for the Waikato,” Mr Fisher says. “We need to take a strategic approach to getting the region up to the next level. We do relatively well, but let’s face it, we’ve suffered from a low profile and subsequent under-funding.”