Businesses lapping up opportunities

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Five Questions with Regional Business Partner Network Central Otago co-ordinator Tara Druce.
Q: What does your role as Central Otago co-ordinator for the Regional Business Partner Network involve?
My job is to link Central Otago businesses with the support they need to grow. The Regional Business Partners (RBP) Network is a New Zealand Trade and Enterprise initiative aimed at growing small and medium sized businesses in the regions. I am engaged by the Central Otago District Council to
help businesses access training, business mentors and research and development grants that are available through the network.
Q: What pathway has led you to Central Otago – what is your background and what projects have you been involved with here?
My background is in tourism policy and planning. I’ve worked in regional tourism marketing, central government policy roles and in Parliament for the Minister of Tourism for a number of years. After our move from Wellington 10 years ago I started my consultancy business, Druce Consulting. Through this, I work on a wide range of business and community planning projects as well undertaking the RBP role. My projects take me right around the region and through all our industries, whether it’s back to my roots through tourism and cycle trail development, community development projects or labour
planning in horticulture and viticulture.
Q: What is the outlook like for business in Central Otago and what trends are you seeing?
There is real optimism in the business community, with lots of start-ups approaching us for support as well as businesses diversifying and expanding their exports or operations. The Teviot Valley is a good example where entrepreneurial locals and new residents are tapping into the opportunities from the cycle trails and the growth in the horticultural sector, which is bringing a growing number of seasonal workers into the valley.
The recent announcement of funding for the Centre for Space Science Technology is big news for Alexandra and I have no doubt there will be spinoffs for the wider business community, whether it is through the development of the proposed Science and Innovation Hub or through the creation of 23 new FTE roles in the town.
Q: What opportunities are there for businesses and what should businesspeople be doing in 21st century Central Otago?
We have put 135 businesses through the RBP programme over the last five years and there are some common themes among successful businesses.
The owners of these businesses have usually made a very conscious decision to grow their business, upskill, learn and innovate. They are conscious of the balance between working on the business and working in the business. If they have gaps in their skills or knowledge they seek out training or contract
in the expertise they need. They have a clear vision for their business or they engage a business coach to help them develop one.
Another feature is that they work hard to establish clusters, networks or a group of “allied” businesses that complement their business and work in partnership with these businesses, whether for marketing, operations or simply referrals. A drive to learn more, do “the business of business” well and be connected
seem to be the key elements.
Q: What would you say to someone who was considering taking part in the RBP training and upskilling programme?
The RBP Network is here to support you as a business. The first step is a free business assessment which takes about an hour and will suggest next steps for your business as well as let you know what government support and grants you may be eligible for. There is nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.