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How many jobs does WREDA create?

3 Aug 2017

Recently, a member of the public, Mr. John Bishop, asked us three questions about what WREDA does for Wellington's economy. We agree with Mr Bishop that they are important questions to ask of an economic development agency. So much so, we think it's worth sharing our full response here on our blog, as it's a subject that matters to all our stakeholders.

Mr. Bishop asked us:

  • How many jobs can WREDA credibly claim it has attracted to Wellington, or help create since its inception? 
  • What is the total investment by new businesses starting up in Wellington since WREDA started, and how much of this can credibly be claimed by WREDA to be the result of its activities or intervention?
  • Other than new jobs and new investment what other tangible economic returns has WREDA brought about for ratepayers and residents in the region?

According to government data, the number of jobs in the Wellington region has increased by about 7,500 over the last couple of years. Over the same period, the number of new businesses in Wellington has increased by around 600. 

So the question is, how much of that growth can WREDA 'credibly claim'?

It's not all about us…

First of all, it's important to acknowledge that the private sector creates jobs, not government agencies. 

WREDA helps Wellington businesses increase their revenues, which creates a demand for new jobs. 

In the areas where we have had the most direct influence on job creation, primarily our business attraction activity, LookSee Wellington tech talent programme, and conversion of internship programmes - we had a direct role in the creation of 237 jobs last financial year, with an additional 335 forecast for 2017/18. However, that's far from the full story. 

WREDA's main role is to support the growth of Wellington businesses, by increasing demand and/or helping them develop their capability. Resulting increases in revenue create a demand for additional jobs, in those businesses, in their suppliers, and elsewhere in the economy through consumer spending. We also have a role in ensuring there is a workforce in Wellington to meet that demand, through talent attraction and retention activity.

WREDA helps Wellington businesses increase their revenues, which creates a demand for new jobs.

Business growth

Through our New Zealand Trade & Enterprise/Callaghan Innovation-supported Regional Business Partner programme, we work with around 300 businesses a year, to identify and address their specific needs, and help them take the next step in their evolution. 

This can involve funding leadership training or capability development, or R&D for a new product or service. It can be a simple as making a business mentor connection to provide expert advice to a business owner on critical steps in their growth strategy. These services directly assist companies throughout the region to expand their operations and their headcount. 

Visitor economy

The purpose of WREDA's tourism marketing and promotion (plus our Business Events Wellington team and a significant component of our Venues and Major Events portfolios) is to drive demand for - and jobs in - businesses in Wellington's visitor economy. This includes attractions and tour products, as well as the accommodation, hospitality and retail sectors. 

According to government figures, visitor spending in the Wellington region has grown by more than 12% over the last two years, to more than $2.3 billion per year - or $6.5 million per day on average. This high growth has driven new jobs and investment across the visitor economy in that time, including a number of new hotel properties recently or soon-to-be opened in Wellington. 

In tourism as elsewhere in the economy, WREDA activity is one of many influential factors. We don't claim credit for all that growth, by any means. But the significant direct investment made by our hotel and other visitor economy partners into WREDA's promotional programmes tell us they value the contribution we make to their bottom line.  

The purpose of WREDA's tourism marketing and promotion is to drive demand for - and jobs in - businesses in Wellington's visitor economy.

Promoting Wellington business

Similarly, our promotion of Wellington's creative, innovative and future-oriented economy, both domestically and offshore, unlocks opportunities for growth. Our Destination Wellington media programme generates hundreds of positive, high-profile media clips across Australasia, promoting Wellington's innovative businesses community. As recently as last week, thanks to this work, the front page of the Technology section in the Australian Financial Review explained Why Wellington thinks it is the high-tech capital of Asia Pacific.

Many local businesses we've used as case studies for media stories, both here and across the Tasman, report an uptick in customer and investor enquiries as a direct result of this coverage.

Boosting Wellington's reputation

Promoting Wellington as a fantastic place to study, live and work expands the available pool of talented, wealth-creating professionals available to Wellington businesses. 

Our tech sector, for example, is part of a highly competitive global talent market, where demand far exceeds supply worldwide. The LookSee Wellington programme, in partnership with Workhere, Immigration NZ and NZ Tech, successfully put Wellington on the radar of the world's tech community, generating upwards of $10 million in media coverage worldwide. It drove millions of people to our site, and over 48,000 people completed applications to be considered for the programme. Including the initial group of nearly 100 who were selected to come to Wellington for job interviews (most of whom have either accepted job offers or remain in discussions with employers), this is a hugely valuable database of experienced tech professionals who are keen to create a future in Wellington.

Making connections

WREDA brings together Wellington companies with potential customers across a number of programmes. 

Our site receives some three million unique visits per year and hosts the largest online collection of Wellington retail, hospitality, accommodation and attraction businesses, with more than 3000 listings. 

We organise and host trade events such as the Visa Wellington On a Plate Supplier Showcase, and the Show Me Wellington conferencing industry trade show. We've also supported businesses across a range of sectors, including tech, food & beverage, screen, education and tourism, to attend offshore trade events, under a Wellington banner, often leading directly to new supply and investment deals.

Incubation and acceleration

Through our subsidiary CreativeHQ's business incubation and acceleration programmes, we've assisted the growth of more than 200 startups to-date. CreativeHQ alumni have an aggregate valuation of over $55 million, employ over 250 staff and generate in excess of $25 million in annual revenues. They are companies in industries including finance, film, government and publishing, and include some well-known Wellington success stories, such as StarNow, SilverStripe, Wipster and Eight Wire.

But…it's not all about us

Across virtually everything we do, WREDA works in close conjunction with businesses and other organisations; from our council shareholders to government agencies like Tourism New Zealand, business and industry bodies like the regional Chambers of Commerce, private sector programmes like Summer of Tech, and Wellington companies large and small.

The tangible economic returns of our programmes belong to our many partners as well as to WREDA. And, of course, there are a host of other environmental and market conditions at play, from exchange rates to earthquakes, that can either flatter or impede our efforts. 

Drawing a bright line through the data, i.e. saying 'this much GDP/job growth belongs to WREDA, this much belongs to the employer, this much to the Reserve Bank' - with any robustness is exceptionally difficult. This same value measurement challenge is faced by agencies working in economic development across the world, from government ministries to district councils, and a range of development consultancies.

Accountability matters

Regardless of the challenges, accountability is hugely important to WREDA. 

We're funded by the business and residential ratepayers of Wellington, and their investment comes with an expectation that we deliver a substantial return.  

We want to quantify that return to best of our ability, to track our performance and hold ourselves to account. That's why we work closely with our council shareholders, Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council, to develop and constantly improve a comprehensive set of performance measures, which include quantifiable outcomes, programme outputs and macro-economic indicators. 

Our performance measures are published annually in our Statement of Intent and reported against in our Annual Report. Our quarterly progress against these targets is presented to our shareholders at committee meetings, and published on their websites. You can also learn more about the breadth and depth of our activity in those documents, which includes all of the above and a good deal more.

We're funded by the business and residential ratepayers of Wellington, and their investment comes with an expectation that we deliver a substantial return.

We have every confidence that WREDA returns each dollar of public money invested in us many times over, in new revenue and investment attracted to the region, and through the growth of the businesses we support. But we are fundamentally a partnership organisation. We're not here to take credit for the success of others. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The Wellington region is the hero in all our work, not WREDA - Wellington business, Wellington people, the Wellington community. Wellington is working to develop a stronger economy. Everything WREDA does is about creating conditions to make that growth and development easier.

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