There is a huge amount of economic development activity happening in our region, and as the region’s economic development agency, CEDA needed to understand it better.
The challenge was twofold – first we needed to draw a line on what is and isn’t economic development activity, and then we had to understand the status of that activity, given the very fluid, dynamic and ever-changing nature of the economic landscape. It’s generally an area with no clear boundaries, but we tried to put some criteria around it.
CEDA decided economic development activity was something with a project orientation – a start and finish. It could be either a driver of value (such as agri-tech, domestic or international visitors spending money in the region, international students studying in the region, inward investment, or growing innovative crops by optimising land use) or an enabler that supported those drivers (such as stock water reticulation, iwi settlements, building and maintaining infrastructure including flood protection, or being more business-friendly). Enablers will support growth activity, but they won’t necessarily grow the region in their own right.
We talked to stakeholders around the region to understand what economic development activity they were involved with or collaborating in and as a result we now have, probably for the first time, a summary of economic development activity in the region. We identified 131 initiatives that were underway or planned. Interestingly, a large proportion of these projects are enablers rather than drivers.
By building up this picture of the diverse landscape of projects and connectors we can ensure that, as a region, we have a co-ordinated, cohesive and collaborative approach to economic development in the future.