E-center to Create 700 Jobs in NZ

AUCKLAND (04/28/2000) - Information technology will be the focus of a new 'Enterprise Village', north of New Zealand's largest city Auckland, that is expected to create at least 700 new jobs.

The project is a partnership involving Massey University, North Shore City Council and the Stephen Tindall Foundation.

The "e-center" at the Massey's Albany Campus will house around 150 firms over a 10-year period, offering them advice and funding support for up to three years.

Project director Brian Chrystall says the scheme will foster links between the university, industry and the community, as well as boost university research.

Firms and the university will be able to help and advise each other. The council will receive rating revenue from the firms and the community will also benefit from the jobs created.

"Information technology is certainly the area of growth in the university's academic program. Part of that thrust is to increase the linkage between business and the university. Any of the concerns will have access to the university and vice versa," he says.

Tenders were called this week for the construction of a 2000 square-meter centerpiece building. Work is due to start on the building in June. Three large anchor tenants are being sought for the center, plus a number of incubator and fledgling tenants. Already a number of firms have shown interest.

"We are targeting IT, electronics and high-end technology based firms, but we are not restricting it to IT. We would like a mix of enterprises for the synergies and they can interact together," says Chrystall.

The incubator companies will be small start-up operators employing one to three people, while the fledgling firms will be more established, employing three to six staff members.

"Anchor businesses will be established in the software or electronics industry.

They will be used as examples for those coming through, give them security and be used as an income stream to support the others," he says.

All firms will pay rent but the plan is to subsidize some of the smaller firms through rental or other income. No money will be redirected from the university's educational operations, as the center will be self-financing.

Chrystall says firms will be on site for up to three years before they "graduate" into the wider community, when they are considered venture capital ready and strong enough to stand on their own. "If we take the view 20 percent will fail and the other 80 percent survive and grow, we get 140 firms over 10 years," he says.

Assuming each firm employs five, this means 700 new jobs, more so if some employ a hoped for 20 to 30. The main center site is currently unused, but the village will use buildings presently used as accommodation for staff, who will move to newer buildings.

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