ADVOCATE COLUMN 2nd WEEK FEBRUARY 2014
Manufacturing and export need to be the key drivers to our region’s economic growth. It is about creating more value, enhancing profitable performance and where possible developing export potential. It is critical to the region’s wealth growth and employment. Our national business profile with a particularly high percentage of small and medium sized enterprises does present some difficulties. This results in the manufacturing sector having difficulty achieving any real scale. This does not mean that SMEs cannot be successful at manufacturing as they are often very resilient and being small in scale have the ability to change rapidly to meet the market. It does however mean that we must identify a competitive advantage to overcome the difficulties of scale.
Prior to Christmas, Northland Inc held a forum to discuss the future development of Northland’s food and beverage sector. It was to identify the requirements of the sector and opportunities for the future. It considered issues of processing, product development and promotion. Those attending discussed the need for shared manufacturing facilities of a similar nature to the Manukau Food Bowl, issues round access to expertise on technology and innovation and the development of a point of difference/mark/brand for Northland food products.
A place and its reputation can be evocative of its landscapes and its lifestyles. It can also be strongly associated with the things that it produces. We see this with the reputation of several of New Zealand’s primary products at an international level. We also see this at a national level where regions or places develop a brand around a particular primary product or valued added primary product as in the case of Central Otago wine or Akaroa cod for example. Along with design, brand can provide a sustainable competitive advantage.
Brand goes well beyond the label and is about the experience and relationship between the product and the customer. It is here that a long-term emotional connection can be created and it is here that if we can identify what Northland means to outside markets and leverage off this reputation, there is an opportunity to achieve a competitive advantage for our manufacturing sector particularly around value added primary products. Developing a sense of place that the market can experience and create a connection with is a necessary step in our region’s economy. For this reason identifying or articulating what exactly Northland is as a region can potentially provide benefit to sectors of our economy other than just tourism.