First grants approved under new economic stimulus fund
Development West Coast has approved the first funding via its District Economic Stimulus Fund (DESF), which has been set up in direct response to the current economic challenges faced by the region.
Up to $1 million will be distributed to applicants through each of the three West Coast districts councils.
To date over 10 projects have had funding approved which include the Buller Employment Initiative, and internet clothing business, WearBox Ltd.
The Buller Employment Initiative, promoted by Buller District Council, will use its grant to help businesses develop up to 20 new positions. This funding will be bolstered by Government funding through Work and Income New Zealand, and together the organisations will implement the employment boosting scheme over the next two years.
WearBox Ltd aims to use its grant to expand its start-up web-based clothing business to a point where more staff are required.
With funding for the first wave of applications agreed, DWC is currently considering a further group of applications from Westland District Council and will be letting those organisations know the outcome in the next month.
Applicants must demonstrate how their particular project will promote employment or generate sustainable economic benefits to the district, and preference will be given to projects that will use the DESF funds to leverage other funding sources.
DWC is able to provide a range of commercial financing options for West Coast business, including commercial lending, equity investment and guarantees.
In August 2015, in addition to its “business as usual” commercial finance function, DWC launched a $5 million Business and Industry Stimulus Fund (BISF) in order to stimulate business development and growth in the region in the face of ongoing economic challenges.
The Fund became available to West Coast businesses in October 2015 with priority being given to projects that would create employment opportunities as a direct effect of a distribution. The BISF offered a more streamlined process to consider applications and incentives that could include favourable interest rates and repayment terms for businesses and projects that had a particular focus on employment creation and retention.
One of the more significant projects DWC assisted in the 2016 financial year was the development of the new Inchbonnie Hydro power scheme.
The 1.7 megawatt run of the river scheme began generating power in January 2016 and, at capacity, will generate enough energy to cover the requirements of 1,200 West Coast homes annually.
The scheme takes water from streams on conservation land in the Hohonu range, between Greymouth and Hokitika and was designed to have minimal environmental impact with no major excavation, earthworks or dams required.
The scheme not only brings new economic benefits to the West Coast, but provides employment, utilises local materials and suppliers, increases the Coast’s energy independence and improves electricity infrastructure.
Originator and developer, Dave MacKay, said the financial support from DWC was key to getting the project off the ground. “Project finance is not easy to find and the people at DWC put a lot of energy into evaluating the feasibility of the scheme and the flow-on effects to the local economy. Schemes like Inchbonnie Hydro represent the future for hydro power generation in New Zealand.”
Epic Westport (Enterprise Precinct Innovation Centre)
EPIC Westport has received funding from DWC through its $5 million Business and Industry Stimulus Fund. EPIC Westport (Enterprise Precinct Innovation Centre) is modelled on the successful EPIC innovation centre in Christchurch and provides a base for local companies looking to be innovative, and developing local capacity in digital technology.
The centre provides collaborative workspaces, fully serviced offices, fibre optic internet, with meeting rooms available by the hour or permanent office spaces for teams of up to 10 people. The design of the building will encourage companies to work together, share ideas and business knowledge. It is this creative collaboration that has allowed many EPIC Christchurch businesses to experience year on year growth and increased returns.
Founder Benjamin Dellaca says EPIC Westport hasbeen established to create a new industry and new jobs for the region. “Westport offers many lifestyle and economic advantages that are attractive to hightech companies and entrepreneurs. These companies are recognising that their teams can work remotely and provide excellent service for domestic and international customers by doing so. Our objective is to make Westport an obvious choice for tech companies looking to provide their workers flexible working arrangements,” he says.
As a satellite of the EPIC Innovation Centre in Christchurch, the two hubs plan to connect Westportbased entrepreneurs with Christchurch, national and international businesses, advisors and funders. EPIC Christchurch includes startup, incubation, acceleration and research and development programs. Ben hopes the Westport hub will bring the same network and services to the Buller region.
Stage one of EPIC Westport is about creating jobs in Westport, making Westport the first choice for startups or business looking to innovate or conduct research and development, and a business case for national companies to locate staff in Westport. When fully operational, stage one of EPIC Westport will house up to 25 full time workers and have space to accommodate ore than a dozen casual hot desk users. It will showcase software and game development, testing, call centres, remote tech services, sales and support.
Digital Enablement Fund
DWC conﬁrmed a $1m Digital Enablement Fund during the year with a particular focus on improving access to Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) and reducing cellular black spots for the region.
The three West Coast district councils can access this funding pool to leverage central government funding to improve UFB and cellular services across the West Coast, and they are now working with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) to identify priorities and assess how the additional funds can help speed up the process.
DWC set up the Digital Enablement Fund as it recognised the increasing importance of addressing communication issues in the region, not only as a means to bolster business and industry but as a way to help improve telecommunication services in the region’s more remote areas.
West Coast Regional Economic Development Agency
THE West Coast Regional Economic Development Agency (REDA) was set up in early 2016 as a joint initiative between DWC and the four West Coast councils. It is jointly funded by DWC and the West Coast Regional Council with the three District Councils providing in-kind resources where necessary.
Operating in conjunction with DWC and the councils, the REDA is tasked with growing the region and will implement the 11 action points and targets outlined in the 2014 Regional Economic Development Plan.
The REDA’s Regional Development Manager, Kevin Stratful, has been on board since February and has been working with the tourism and education sectors. With his extensive corporate experience, Mr Stratful has a keen understanding of how to push opportunities forward and encourage a collaborative working environment for West Coast businesses and industries to become part of.
Development Putake Honey
DWC is investing to further expand an established industry for the West Coast with its entry into a joint venture with Putake Honey to develop a West Coast wholesale honey business.
This partnership aims to create employment and scale up an industry which is currently fairly small on the Coast and build a business that can tell the unique West Coast story and, in time, market and sell honey and other apicultural products worldwide.
Putake Honey brings a proven business model to the West Coast with the potential to provide 15-20 new jobs over the next three years, and it is hoped bee-keeping will become an attractive career choice for young people in the region.
For more information please call our office (03 769 7000) or, visit any of the following District Council websites....