Wellington businesses go it alone as they cash in on Chch rebuild

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown
Peter Townsend: Local companies will need help

Wellington’s employers are being told to start looking south for opportunities to expand, instead of concentrating so much on Auckland.

Two capital-based businesses which have recently expanded into Canterbury reckon there is plenty of room for others to follow suit.

Their endorsement comes as Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown this week announced a March forum to help businesses in the capital set their sights on Canterbury and cash in on the region's $30 billion rebuild.

"There are so many opportunities for Wellington business to help out in Christchurch and get their city back on its feet," she says.

Thirteen year old IT recruitment company Absolute IT will open its new Christchurch office next month. It has others in Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton and London. 

Director Grant Burley admits IT might not be the first industry people think about when they think about the rebuild.

But numerous surveys carried out by Absolute IT shows employee confidence is up in the region and there is also plenty of demand for IT specialists.

“And, ultimately, what it comes down to, and also seeing what our local competitors are doing, we recognised there’s further need for a business like ours to expand,” Mr Burley says.

Absolute IT’s latest figures paint a buoyant figure for the IT job market, especially in a recovering Christchurch.

And 56% of the Christchurch employers surveyed were planning to hire in 2013, the majority of whom would need staff in the first three months of the year.

Would consider moving

That figure was almost matched by the number of employees – 51% – who said they would consider moving to Christchurch for a job.

Mr Burley admits IT might not be the first sector people think about when they think about the rebuild, but it is more a behind-the-scenes support industry.

He predicts the demand for services such as IT support will carry on for the next decade at least, helped by expanding local IT software development companies such as Tait Communications, Wynyard Group and Jade Software.

Wellington public relations agency Ideas Shop has just opened a new office in Christchurch, having already done some work for companies there since the earthquakes.

Partner Anna Kominik says even though the professional service sector is not strictly part of the rebuild, there is a demand for such quality firms in Christchurch.

“Actually, there is a very active economy down there and, I guess, Wellington tends to look north. But actually, if you look south, there’s a huge engine room of an economy down there as well, particularly in terms of our interest in agribusiness. It’s a natural fit.”

She says one of Ideas Shop’s export clients is looking to hire another 100 people as it continues to expand.

Could kick-start careers

Ms Kominik believes the rebuild offers the perfect opportunity for Wellington workers, too, because it could kick-start many careers.

"You’re going to get experience that you probably won’t get as quickly anywhere else because of the speed and pace at which things are happening.”

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce ceo Peter Townsend says tapping into all the local Canterbury capability first will be the priority.

However, he admits the scale of the rebuild will be so big, local companies will need the help of others.

And one way he sees this happening is by collaboration.

“We’ve had a look at some actual examples and it’s very clear to us that the key to success is having a local company in collaboration with an external company. The local company provides the key to the opportunity and the external company provides the scale.”

Mr Townsend, who is speaking at the March forum in Wellington, says he has had numerous companies contact him saying they want to set up shop to get involved in the rebuild.

“My response is 'it’s not quite as simple as that. It’s far better, if you can, to work with local entities and be inculcated into our local business community rather than come in cold – because it’s very difficult to come in cold'.”

New partnership

He cites the example of Christchurch law firm Lane Neave’s new partnership with national law firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts.

The two companies are collaborating on providing information to the Canterbury business community through a series of seminars.

The alliance between the well-respected firms is ultimately about harnessing the power of collaboration to deliver the best legal advice for the people of Christchurch as they transition to an exciting new city.

“Lane Neave and Minter Ellison Rudd Watts realise the recovery of Christchurch is not going to be accomplished without the support and efforts of the far wider community at a national and international level.

"The rise of collaborations that span regions will be fundamental to success.”

bcunningham@nbr.co.nz

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