Hamilton, July 5, 2023
The economic climate has been gloomy and unpredictable for a few months, and the road ahead is still not devoid of challenges. The mood has been subdued across all sectors, with rising costs, while signs of less competition for workers and weaker wage inflation should continue reducing inflationary pressures over time.
Hamilton businesses are looking for the positives and several employers in the region have projected higher confidence for the next few months according to their interaction with the Hamilton City Council.
Hamilton employers remain positive despite challenges
Hamilton employers are upbeat about growing their businesses over the next 12 months despite a challenging climate.
Greg Carstens, Council’s Growth Funding and Analytics Manager, said his team uses a range of information to advance Council’s economic development goals.
“We take empirical research from direct engagements with employers to inform robust, data-driven insights. In-person conversations with business leaders can add context, nuance, and a local perspective that is invaluable to our work.”
The link between business growth and the city’s transport network was identified by many employers. Logistic bosses highlighted benefits stemming from the completion of the Waikato Expressway and the development of the Ruakura Superhub.
Meeting in person
The insight into employers’ confidence levels comes from numerous in-depth meetings(30 to be precise) that Hamilton City Council’s economic development staff have had with city businesses over the past six months.
Councillor Ewan Wilson, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, said the face-to-face meetings provide a pulse-check on employers’ thinking. Employers were drawn from the manufacturing and logistics sectors as well as the technology, agritech and innovation sector.
“A core focus of our Economic Development Committee is to identify ways we can partner with different sectors to promote business growth and investment in our city. The insights we gain from these in-person meetings help us to make well-informed decisions,” Mr Wilson said.
The engagement sessions revealed two out of three Hamilton employers were confident about growing their business over the coming year, although retaining staff was identified as a priority.
Tech employers are seeing some staff take up overseas job opportunities following the reopening of borders and are struggling to fill roles requiring five-plus years of experience.
These businesses want to see continued investment in regional transport infrastructure and public transport to help attract and retain talent to Hamilton. They also advocate for another central city hotel and improved hospitality offerings.
Hamilton working on the future
Councillor Wilson said the committee has targeted the end of 2023 for confirming development plans to bring a new ‘4+ star hotel’ to the central city. “It is the number one priority for our committee. Council staff have done some excellent work in this area and we are very focused in our attempt to attract another hotel operator to Hamilton.”
Manufacturing employers were mostly positive about their business prospects over the next 12 to 18 months but expressed concern about increasing operating costs. To secure skilled staff in a competitive job market, manufacturers were increasing wages and benefits to attract and retain staff. None of the businesses that the Council spoke with, plan to reduce staff numbers.
Manufacturing and logistic bosses pointed to a diminishing supply of industrial-zoned land in the city as a concern, something Council had to be mindful of, Mr Wilson said.
“There is a lot of discussion about residential development and housing but, from my point of view, the supply of industrial land is even more important. It underpins the critical and well-paid jobs that then justify and warrants having all those housing options.”
Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.