Great Climate … But No Jobs
By Murray Douglas, CEO, HB Chamber of Commerce
A couple of years ago I was involved in a stand at a Jobs Expo in Auckland. We were there at a time when Hawke’s Bay was suffering from some skill shortages, and a number of businesses co-ordinated by the Chamber of Commerce were touting for staff.
Without exception everyone we spoke to wanted to come to the Bay. These attendees had a strong view that we in Hawke’s Bay had a great climate, great schools, comparatively good house prices, and an enviable way of life compared to the Auckland ‘rat race’. The problem was that they:
- couldn’t find a job to come to, despite our skill shortages;
- they were worried about career prospects in a smaller economy;
- they were locked into Auckland homes or other assets they would find it difficult to quit.
In other words, we may not need to market ourselves. Rather, perhaps we need to spend more effort on creating the employment markets that will in turn attract and hold new migrants.
Which raises another almost systemic observation about Hawke’s Bay … we are often too hard on ourselves and don’t realise our real marketing strengths closer to home.
For example, take the case of Dunedin. It has a general reputation of being cooler than other parts of New Zealand, and as a result it seems, perhaps more dour and less go ahead. Indeed, in the 1980’s, when Dunedin lost 10,000 jobs in the decade, local people almost lost confidence in themselves.
They set about the marketing of Dunedin in two very distinctive ways. Firstly they started a campaign with a slogan ‘Dunedin – It’s all right here’. The double meaning to convince locals that everything was in Dunedin, and in fact it was a great ‘right’ place. The students of course affectionately corrupted this to ‘Dunedin – It’s all riot here’.
But the aim of the campaign was not external. It was aimed at Dunedin’s own citizens. We had to make ourselves feel confident and positive about our own town. When this was in place, then the campaign could go further afield.
The second aspect of the Dunedin campaign was then to use Dunedin people to promote Dunedin. These were not fancy campaigns. Rather, it was prominent people talking about why the loved the place and why they felt visitors and migrants should come to Dunedin and enjoy what they liked and valued.
The campaign was enormously successful and built around some of the key building blocks of Dunedin’s strong heritage, tertiary education and old manufacturing strengths. The population started growing strongly and the economy in the early 1990’s was very positive.
So Hawke’s Bay with its strong regional identity, successful people and pretty good public image has the same ability to leverage these ‘iconic’ assets into marketing. Sure a bit of money would help in the promotion. But let’s not stray too much from what makes our story strong … our people promoting our region.