Manufacturing industry crucial to the country’s economic future The New Zealand manufacturing and technology industry is actively urging the Government to listen to and support the engine room of New Zealand’s economic recovery. The call comes after the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted the country’s first Manufacturing and Technology Forum, focusing on economic recovery from COVID-19. Over one hundred manufacturing and technology industry representatives across the Wellington region came together to share their views and highlight areas where support was needed to foster economic growth from these industries. The Minister of Finance, the Honorable Grant Robertson attended the forum and opened the event, which was part of October’s 2020 Wellington Business Expo. CEO of the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce, Helen Down, said government must support the manufacturing sector to reap the benefits it can offer to the COVID-19 response and our economic recovery. The forum is part of an ongoing programme of work by the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce to champion the manufacturing and technology industries and advocate for them to government. “It is not only industries most obviously damaged by COVID-19, like international tourism that needs support. Manufacturing and technology industries are pivotal to our recovery and our future, they are important employers in our communities and they need government support,” she said. A panel of industry experts from a variety of manufacturing and technology companies presented their inside perspectives. The panel included Sir Neville Jordan from Endeavour Capital; Martin Simpson from Fraser Engineering; Richard Latta from Leda Extrusions and Pikes Plastics; Derek Bradley from Aurora44; Terry Carter from NZ Tube Mills; and Shane Lowe from 360 Logistics. The General Manager of Fraser Engineering, Martin Simpson, said the manufacturing sector is the engine
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room of the economy and can no longer be ignored. Located in Wingate, Lower Hutt, Fraser Engineering employs 120 staff and is facing substantial growth as the largest manufacturer of fire engines in the Pacific. “I believe there has been a disconnect between consecutive governments in regards to supporting a strong manufacturing sector and this is now being highlighted by COVID-19. I believe the manufacturers hold the secret to economic success in this county,” Martin Simpson said. “A government that is willing to empower and support this sector will generate the income required to transform this economy and lead the world to a social and sustainable future.” Chief Executive of NZ Tube Mills, Terry Carter, said globally New Zealand is an attractive supplier and the strong response to COVID-19 has given a competitive advantage in the manufacturing sector for export. “New Zealand manufacturers are very flexible and seize opportunities, however at times it can be difficult to get support. Now is a pivotal time for the Government to consider refining some of the processes to access export markets,” Terry Carter said. Sir Neville Jordan, Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and founder of Endeavour Capital and MAS Technology, agrees. He said supporting ‘the ball carrier’ by helping manufacturing companies was crucial. He said Crown Research Institutes (CRI’s), and universities are often the front door. “However, many of us have tried to deal with CRI’s and universities and it’s really hard.” Sir Neville wants the Government to listen and open up the front doors. Another issue is obtaining highly skilled staff in
this current environment. The Chief Executive of gaming company Aurora 44, Derek Bradley, said it’s a challenge to get the right staff to continue the growth of their business. The company’s video game, Ashen, was picked up by Microsoft as an Xbox and Windows exclusive. Aurora44 has seen rapid growth, employing 70 staff within seven years, and is expected to grow further this year. “We need help from the Government to bring in more highly skilled workers,” Derek Bradley said. “The growth potential for the video game industry is huge. It will grow to a billion-dollar export industry just within New Zealand over the next five years.” Recognising the ongoing skills shortage, exacerbated by COVID-19, the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted its first Education to Employment ‘Speed Meet’, as part of the Wellington Business Expo. Over 70 students met with 20 employers to discuss and learn about career pathways and immediate work opportunities available, many within manufacturing. Jo Kunnen, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Times-7, a Hutt Valley radio-frequency identification (RFID) business, attended the Chamber’s Speed Meet. “Ultimately I think the future for the sector in New Zealand is strong. We need to show young people the many career opportunities that exist in manufacturing and encourage them to entice young people to study STEM at school,” Jo Kunnen said. The Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce will publish a report to government, summarising the forum’s ideas and the support the industry needs to underpin the country’s economic recovery.