In his latest BayBuzz magazine article — Boomers … Living in Paradise — Douglas Lloyd Jenkins asks: “Does Hawke’s Bay’s growing reputation as a baby-boom paradise have the potential to limit the region’s future appeal and eventually its economic performance?”
Comparing Hawke’s Bay to Tauranga, he asserts that no one under 50 really wants to live in Tauranga (it’s a place to visit grandparents), and he warns: “Hawke’s Bay may similarly come to mean ‘the place baby boomers go to vineyard concerts by rock musicians whom everyone else thought were dead’.” Ouch!
Now along comes St John Craner, a new inductee to the Bay, a Gen Xer of the type Douglas says we need. As our guest blogger today, he shares his first impressions of the region and some cheeky ideas for getting ‘top talent’ to the Bay.
Is Hawke’s Bay the Elephants’ Graveyard of New Zealand?
By St John Craner
I didn’t move here to retire.
I moved to the Hawke’s Bay back in March, aged thirty seven, and three years early in the life plan, for two thirds salary and 100% lifestyle. In my second week here I was comforted to participate in an excellent Social Media Conference at Black Barn attended by some smart operators. We videoconferenced into the US to listen to world experts as well as local legend Rod Drury. So I hadn’t moved to Lamb Country after all … or so I thought.
As I delved deeper, observed and networked through contacts and events, I began to notice other things. Was this place an Elephants’ Graveyard where successful retirees came to see out their days? More importantly, where was the next generation coming through? This got me thinking. If Hawke’s Bay attracts older, successful people nearing or wanting to retire, why couldn’t we flip this and target a younger, smart talent pool who want to prosper and, in doing so, lift regional performance?
We have plenty of regional positives to compete on: sunshine hours, climate, landscape, recreation, family time, wine, schools and food. All strong, quality of life drivers nationally and internationally right? But are they differentiating enough? Nelson and Tauranga could match us. Maybe we need to extend the toolbox and offer strong digital connections or quality of life indices that correlate to business performance, staff commitment or output?
In a recent BayBuzz article – Choosing to be poor – Tom Belford referred to Sir Paul Callaghan’s speech for Strategy NZ, where he suggested New Zealand’s brand proposition should be: “The place where talent wants to live”. I want to propose that we lay this same challenge to ourselves. What would we have to do to attract 100 future Rod Drurys, Ray McKimms or Robert Darrochs?
So here’s a big idea: a Hawke’s Bay Resident Eligibility Scheme.
If we are serious about attracting top talent to the Bay, let’s evaluate how people wanting to move and live here can progress and contribute to our region:
- What exclusive, specialist skills, qualifications and expertise can they bring?
- Who can vouch for them? Are they of good character?
- What’s their track record of achievement?
- Will they buy a home here, or a business?
- Will they bring their family, friends or others like them, with them?
- What personal or professional networks can they share?
- What is their level of influence?
- What available capital do they have?
- Do they have good physical and mental health?
- How old are they?
- Do they have children? How old are they?
- Do they have a criminal record?
- Do they intend to stick around? If so, for how long?
The more points they score, the higher the subsidies are to entice them to put roots down. These could be in the form of reduced rates, reduced school fees or relocation subsidies. The reward? Proven, magnetic talent in a place where ‘like attracts like’ that then self-generates as a population. Call it market forces.
If New Zealand and New Zealand business do it, why shouldn’t we consider it on a regional basis? We are competing for talent on a global stage and we could be the first to do it here. Could our first target be marketing to and attracting back the top 5% of the smart 500,000 Kiwis overseas? Come in KEA!
I love Chamber of Commerce chief Murray Douglas’s big idea of setting up Hawke’s Bay Embassies around the world. Here’s another but smaller idea meantime: a Hawke’s Bay Business Commune. A creative hub made up of artists, musicians, teachers, nutritionists, writers, physical trainers, seniors, school leavers, school students, architects, programmers and photographers (to name a few) … all focused on regional and commercial growth. The more diverse, the better. A cool, fully wifi’d space where great minds can formally meet to think, discuss and solve each other’s problems.
‘Group Therapy’ (also known as crowd sourcing) from a number of diverse angles and brains can often solve problems that haven’t been cracked before. I’ve seen it happen when tutoring business incubator groups round the country and it’s a powerful tool.
We can’t muscle our way out of our current under-performance as a region, but we can think our way out, and fortune favours the brave. Talent attracts talent so let’s show them how talented we are before we all wind up retired and old in sunset state.