Last night, Priority One (P1) hosted its Annual General Meeting at the Baycourt Theatre in Tauranga.

I have already posted an article dedicated to P1. It is the Western Bay of Plenty’s economic development agency. Wharf42 is a member which makes the P1 model unique in New Zealand. It is a business community-driven EDA as opposed to the more usual local authority owned entity. And so Jacqui and I joined the AGM last night, together with a large number of other Bay of Plenty corporate members and representatives.

The Priority One team - Driving economic development strategy in the Bay

The Priority One team – Driving economic development strategy in the Bay

The Annual Report was themed ‘Come to the Edge’. Christopher Logue’s poem reflects courage, determination and commitment; along with encouragement and, of course, a firm belief in a positive outcome. The Chair, Murray Denyer, and Chief Executive, Andrew Coker, built on this theme in their formal report to the meeting. Greg Simmonds delivered the detailed script.

Innovation was at the heart of much of the discussion. The tertiary and research precinct, planned for Tauranga’s city centre, together will Callaghan Innovation’s decision to appoint WNT Ventures as one of its three new tech-focused incubators marks an acceleration of a number of initiatives coming to fruition. With Enterprise Angels, now the most active New Zealand angel investment group, also based in the city, the Bay of Plenty was rapidly becoming a national hub for startup and early stage high technology businesses. Both Andrew and Greg stressed this point.

Outside the formal meeting, a number of representatives were excited to hear about the recruitment of Carl Jones as CEO of WNT Ventures. It further enhances the region’s reputation on the national stage.

It was against this backdrop of local developments that Cameron Bagrie, Chief Economist at ANZ Bank, spoke about forecasts on the New Zealand economy, together with a brief analysis of New Zealand monetary policy. In the main, he confirmed what I already suspected. New Zealand’s growth rate was projected to slow down modestly over the medium term; the biggest threat to New Zealand coming from external factors. These ranged from an anaemic European economy, global geo-political tensions and the threat of events such as Ebola. When viewed against other OECD member countries, New Zealand’s longer term economic outlook (under the hood, he said) was looking good. New Zealand’s regions should be focusing on the micro, rather than the macro. I agree.

It is of course, against this longer term economic outlook, that today’s initiatives in Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty are being undertaken. Cameron talked briefly about some of the initiatives taking place in other regions. Queenstown and Wanaka are moving forward. So is Ashburton. These are regional centres taking advantage of the small things that work in their favour. By contrast, Taupo and Rotorua are struggling. (His words, not mine Jeff!)

I got the impression that the P1’s members left the meeting in a pretty positive frame of mind. There signs of real progress across the Bay. The city and the region are a great place to be right now. We have arrived at the edge.