Hawke’s Bay getting IT vision

The high-tech industry is one of four "clusters" being targeted by development agency Vision 2020 in Hawke's Bay.

The high-tech industry is one of four “clusters” being targeted by development agency Vision 2020 in Hawke’s Bay.

While famous for fruit and grapes, the region can boast big technology names like telecommunications gear maker Ericsson. Other electrical firms include Vectron Industries, which makes speed motor devices, and Electrotech Controls and Falcon Electrical, which both make switchboards.

More high-tech companies include Internet Hawke’s Bay, Intersoft Systems, which makes finance and funeral management software, Sir Track, which develops tracking devices, and IMS, a major payroll software developer.

Of the 5000 or so firms listed by local councils, some 50 are said to be in IT.

Launched in 1997, Vision 2020 was created by Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce, with Napier City Council and Hastings District Council as stakeholders. The economic development agency also provides a co-ordinating and promotional role to business in the region.

Vision 2020 is reportedly seeking $2.2 million for regional projects from Industry New Zealand. It is also working on proposals involving investment of more than $17 million and 106 new jobs, and recently prepared a briefing paper for a US call centre operator considering relocating to Hawke’s Bay. However, it has faced criticism from backers, who say it has yet to bring a single company or job to the region.

Countering this claims, Australian-based engineering services company Transfield Worley last month announced it was to open an office in Hastings, creating six jobs. Vision 2020’s chief executive Karen Cooper was unavailable for comment.

IT professionals spoken to by Computerworld all stressed the “lifestyle” of vineyards, fishing and cycling. The cost of living and employing staff is also cheap.

Paul Thompson of Intersoft says an “average” programmer costs just $30,000 to $40,000 depending on age and experience, with a “top flight” one getting $40,000 to $50,000 or more.

However, a “reasonable” three-bedroom house is $130 to $180 a week to rent or $150,000 to buy. A decent two-bedroom flat can be rented for $150 per week.

But it has a problem familiar to the rest of New Zealand despite the “lifestyle” — Thompson says good IT staff are hard to find.

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