Job creation and a long-term commitment to the kiwifruit industry are predicted benefits as an Auckland-headquartered business transfers its manufacturing arm to Tauranga.
International labelling company Jenkins Group, which also has offices in Australia, has announced exclusively to the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend that it is creating a new regional hub in Tauranga.
A 2000sq m purpose-built facility will be operational in Tauriko by August 2013.
Jenkins already has a small service and distribution branch, employing 13 staff, based in Mount Maunganui, plus branches in Hastings and Nelson. However, the new facility would initially require 40 staff and this was "stage one" of the company's expansion plans, said managing director Tony Sayle.
"Designs for the facility are in the final stages and these will go for consent and tendering before Christmas," said Mr Sayle. "We intend to be in the building and operational by August 2013.
"This will become the centre for sales and service to customers throughout the region and also be the manufacturing base for Sinclair fruit labels and related products supplied nationwide.
"Being the centre for our horticultural labels manufacturing will in itself require staff that aren't there now. It will also act as a communication hub, providing linkages with our offshore agency partners, so we'll have to bolster up our IT as well."
It was too early to say how many positions would need to be filled from the Tauranga area, said Mr Sayle.
"Some staff will relocate but the process of identifying who and how many is in its early stages," he said. "Clearly there will be opportunities though and that's across the board in warehousing and distribution, sales, printing, print-finishing and general administrative duties."
In terms of its fruit labelling operations, kiwifruit represented a large percentage of the company's business, said Mr Sayle.
"It's a sign of our support to the local kiwifruit industry," he said. "We've had people saying that, with the issues the kiwifruit industry is facing, is it the right time to be going? For us it's exactly the right time. It's a sign of our faith in the long-term viability of the industry and in our customers.
"We've had informal discussions with a number of those customers and they've been tremendously positive. Being closer to those customers is key for us."
Mr Sayle said there were other benefits in moving to the Bay.
"The Bay as a region is growing," he said. "Geographically it is well positioned with main arterial routes up and down the country. It makes sense for us. We're more centralised. We're closer to our customers in Hawkes Bay and Nelson where we also have branches.
"We bring in laminate as the base material for the labels, as well as equipment from offshore, so the Port of Tauranga is a big plus for us."
He underlined the potential of further expansion.
"That's why we're making the move. The intention is to grow the business. That's across the board in New Zealand and Australia. Stage One is increasing the presence in Tauranga. The success of the business will dictate where we go to from there."
Mr Sayle praised Tauranga-based regional economic development organisation Priority One for its role in facilitating the move.
"I can't speak highly enough of them," he said. "From helping dealings with the council through to providing regional information packs for our staff, they've been great."
Brett Lloyd is national operations manager and based at Jenkins' Mount Maunganui branch. Mr Lloyd, who has been with the company for 24 years, heralded the move.
"It's a really positive step at a time when the kiwifruit industry needs some good news," he said. "We've supported the industry with labelling solutions for a number of years but we are definitely lifting our game with this move."
Mr Lloyd said the proposed July 2013 opening would fit in with production schedules.
"Peak season will have been completed, so the move will allow us to get bedded in after that," he said. "We start making kiwifruit labels again in September. We start making them six months in advance of when they're required so we make sure we have a large stock. This way we can begin the pre-make for 2014."
Priority One chief executive Andrew Coker said the Jenkins move demonstrated the Western Bay of Plenty now held "a real competitive advantage".
"Some of the reasons Jenkins have moved here are access to: people, ie, the local talent pool; competitively priced industrial land; and ultrafast broadband.
"The Western Bay, Tauranga City and the regional councils should be congratulated for the work which has been done in the last six-eight years to put the region into the competitive position we enjoy today."
Mr Coker said moves of this type helped broaden the region's economic depth.
"These moves take us beyond relying on population growth as the key economic driver, which it has been in the past."
He said the move represented positive news for the kiwifruit industry and local job creation.
"It's a commitment to the industry, particularly at a time when the industry has had a difficult couple of years. It's not easy making a move of this magnitude. It's not just a case of moving machinery. You are moving people and setting up business in a different location.
"There will be families moving down from Auckland but there will also be job creation locally."