Relationship building important

Attracting investment to Dunedin has been the aim of various city council administrations and business representative bodies for decades.

Not all have been successful. In fact, the list of those leaving after they received past help is probably longer than the ones who have stayed.

Business is dynamic, with nothing staying the same - except in the eyes of local authority administrations nationwide who continue to look optimistically at those with bank accounts large enough to establish some sort of operation within their respective boundaries.

On April 1, the Dunedin City Council launched what it called an ''investment prospectus'', developed for Dunedin to provide valuable information for potential investors.

The so-called prospectus - a misnomer of a name, in this case - is a generic, high-level fishing document which aims to elicit interest from business people who are considering options to expand their businesses and ex-pats thinking of returning to New Zealand.

It also encourages high net worth individuals and investors from New Zealand and offshore to seek further information about opportunities in Dunedin.

It includes fine words and is a worthy idea. However, a prospectus, in business terms, is a formal legal document, which is required by and filed with the relevant regulatory authorities, that provides details about an investment offering for sale to the public.

A prospectus should contain the facts that an investor needs to make an informed investment decision.

The council document is more of a marketing document than a prospectus, something which may confuse people - particularly from overseas - when they receive one of the 3000 copies which have been printed at the cost of $12,000 to ratepayers.

The document is available online, and a change of terminology could be quickly implemented in time to avoid any unfortunate consequences.

There has been much talk recently about whether Dunedin is rolling out the red carpet or red tape when it comes to attracting business. Fisher and Paykel Appliances is taking advantage of some council help in upgrading a building in central Dunedin to expand its operations.

The extra generally high-paying and highly skilled jobs will be welcome in a city which thrives on its reputation as innovative and research and development oriented.

Cr Lee Vandervis asked pertinently recently how long the city should be waiting to see the benefits of the now long-standing sister city with Shanghai, only to be told commercially-sensitive deals had been signed, but could not be released publicly. Cr Vandervis has a point.

What is the point of pushing for a presence in Shanghai without some tangible proof with which ratepayers can view value for money? Cloaking deals in secrecy is not the way to prove the now frequent trips by councillors, tertiary and business representatives are paying their way.

Business is done at the high end. Ideally, Dunedin should identify which business person it wants to deal with and send someone in power to visit them and lure them to the city to show what is available.

Relationships are ever important and Otago has enough senior business people who can represent the province on an equal footing with some of best in the world.

The one bright spot in the council's plan is appointing ''relationship managers'' within council to liaise with potential investors.

What the council's economic development managers need to avoid is trying to reinvent the wheel. The document fails to give an assurance the red carpet will be rolled out for those interested in moving to Dunedin.

Living close to Central Otago's recreational areas and lifestyle options is an attraction, but not enough for a business to consider establishing itself in the city.

Serious thought needs to be put into a new way of operating to set Dunedin apart from the crowd. Shanghai offers an opportunity but having an office in the huge city without being able to implement a new strategy will remain as it sounds - back to the future.


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