For a long time I’ve been something of a lone voice (I’d like to think somewhat akin to the little boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”) crying foul about the economic development direction we seem to take in this country.
Part of the reason I co-founded bizchat was because I saw that everyone, from central Government to private enterprise, is forgetting what is in fact the largest proportion of wealth creation in this (and other) countries – sole operators and businesses at the micro end of the SME description.
I have the utmost respect for those who determine their path is to build a high growth, rapidly scaling business. But I do bemoan the fact that everyone else seems to be forgotten in the process.
I’m biased of course, being co-owner of a small business that, while being somewhat boring in that it still actually manufactures physical products – still keeps 15 or so people employed and has done profitably for going on two decades.
And just so you see that I’m not in total denial – I’m also involved in a number of businesses that seek a different trajectory – with large global aspirations.
A couple of years ago when the (ultimately doomed) Buy Kiwi Made campaign was in full force. Icebreaker CEO Jeremy Moon and I went head-to-head on National Radio “discussing” his contention that companies manufacturing offshore should be permitted to leverage the Buy NZ Made brand. While I was against the BKM campaign (I saw it as an attempt to coerce consumer to buy NZ made product, generally out of some kind of guilt) nevertheless I didn’t think for a moment that it should be broadened to include those sourcing 100% of their product offshore.
So news last week that iconic New Zealand brand Fisher and Paykel is having a Chinese bailout to the tune of 20% should have, in my view, been cause for a hint of sadness – after all this was a New Zealand success story that had been proud, in recent years, that its decision to move much of its manufacturing offshore would enable it to become (and remain) competitive on an international level.
Instead it seems we’re all holding this up as some sort of success story – even our Prime Minister, John Key, wined and dined the Chinese on his recent visit in an effort to lubricate this deal.
So we now have a situation where a New Zealand brand manufactures offshore, where the profits from its (assumedly profitable) trading head offshore, and where more and more of its operational management is also handled overseas – so my question, as always, is what’s left for us here in Enzed?