Hawera is a small provincial town with a big city attitude.
For a town of about 10,000 it's a centre with all the conveniences of a metropolis but without the pressures of city living.
It has a business association with more than 400 members, successful industry around every corner, a centralised community sports hub and a town centre with every major New Zealand bank.
It features three supermarkets, most major fast food outlets and a plethora of historic buildings.
It's also one of the smallest New Zealand centres included in the ultra fast broadband rollout.
Fibre will be accessible to schools, health centres, businesses and more than 3500 homes within the next three years.
Hawera business association chairman Andy Beccard, of Beccard Motors, said it would be yet another feather in Hawera's cap. The association, known as Bizlink, has more than 400 businesses on its data base.
At the monthly Business After 5 events 50-odd members head along to socialise.
Bizlink also holds monthly breakfast clubs which draw about 20 members, Beccard said.
The association works closely with the South Taranaki District Council in urban planning and town beautification.
STDC communications manager Gerard Langford said the two parties had embarked on a five-year project to spruce up the town which would see thoroughfares made more attractive and user- friendly.
To help preserve the heritage and look of Hawera Bizlink introduced the "adopt a building" programme, said Langford, who is also Bizlink deputy chairman.
The association approaches the owners of tired looking buildings and helps restore the property.
"We identify buildings we want to improve," Langford said.
Bizlink organises all the quotes and tradespeople and contributes $1000 towards the renovation.
It has a budget to adopt four buildings each year.
One of the requirements is that all the tradespeople used are local.
"If they bring people from outside Hawera they don't get any assistance."
So far four businesses had been given the Bizlink treatment.
The business association runs smoothly because each year it gets funding with a targeted rate of $150,000, Langford said.
This is raised through rates whereby every commercial property pays a little bit extra.
Beccard said the association was there to benefit all parties across all industries.
"We're not here to be working for one particular area," Beccard said.
"We want to work for everyone."
That includes South Taranaki iwi, council, industries and community boards, he said.
The 2012 Hawera business awards held last month attracted more than 340 business people with more than 600 nominations submitted, Beccard said.
"That's amazing for a town of our size."
The supreme winner on the evening was Tairoa Lodge.
The Bizlink leaders proudly point out that Hawera boasts New Zealand's eight major banks.
"That's because there's a lot of money around.
"You tend not to see it because people are quite conservative," Beccard said.
Fonterra is Hawera's biggest employer with about 1000 people on its payroll.
A $23 million cool store it recently built was a valuable project for Hawera.
The oil and gas industry also employed big numbers.
"Dairy, engineering, oil and gas and food processing makes the Hawera economy very strong and stable," Langford said.
The big businesses paid well which was a blessing and a curse for the town because it meant smaller businesses had to try match those wages, Beccard said.
"Essentially there's no reason why you couldn't run an international business from Hawera," he said.
The $21 million dollar TSB Hub had drawn in a lot of business, Langford said.
"That has done wonders for our local economy in terms of bringing people to our town," Langford said.
In the last financial year the TSB Hub had 167,000 users and 147,000 the year before that, he said.
The council's target was 120,000 "so it's just exceeded expectations", Langford said.
"This is one of the best things that's happened to this community in a long time."
The tired old Hawera signs welcoming motorists on either side of the town are about to be replaced, he said.
The rezoning of State Highway 3 on the northern side of Hawera to commercial and industrial use had already been utilised by a number of large businesses who wanted more space, he said.
Meanwhile Bunnings has just opened up a new store on Glover Rd estimated to have cost about $4 million.
Just down the road at Laser Electrical owner Steve Corrigan said he saw a significant boost in business after Fonterra's increase in milk payout last year.
"Hawera needs the farmer to do well because this is where they spend their money," Corrigan said.
Farmers spent a lot of money on maintenance which had been deferred over the years, he said.
Corrigan has built up a solid client base during his 25 years in business in Hawera, he said.
The hospitality scene in Hawera had made inroads with the opening of some new cafes.
Marracbo Cafe is full up most lunch times and bookings are essential to guarantee a table.
Owners Mike and Rachel Reader opened the establishment in 2008 and gave it a spruce up last Christmas.
This paid off with Marracbo taking out best presentation at the Hawera business awards.
They opened the cafe because head chef Rachel identified a lack good eateries in Hawera.
"I think we took a bit of a gamble," she said.
Since then there had been no looking back, Mike Reader said.
"It's just gone from strength to strength year in year out," he said.
The Gelato Caffe in Hawera, which won two gold medals and a silver at the 2012 Icecream Awards, is also stepping up the hospitality standard in Hawera.
It's now looking at ramping up production and adding an icecream truck to the business.
Co-owners Holger and Annett Zabel, who opened the cafe two years ago, are planning to import a icecream van from Germany.
The van has cooling gel insulation so it can run for 16 hours without the need for a generator.
They would look to take it around Taranaki festivals, sports events, beaches and the coastal walkway, he said.
"It helps to bring our product to the people," Zabel said.
Another award winning store in Hawera is Paper Plus which beat 107 other stores to be crowned best Paper Plus in New Zealand earlier this month.
Owners Janice and Dallas McCallum said they had got close to winning before but never managed to take it out until now.
"I reckon it's harder than winning Olympic gold," Dallas McCallum said.
He had been working at Paper Plus for 27 years and owned the Hawera store for 13 years, he said.
The McCallums were commended on their sales, store presentation, community involvement and support.
For a small town Hawera had large number of information technology service providers.
One new start up is 4U Computer Solutions which specialises in computer maintenance and installation.
Owners Tobias and Susi Hipp moved the business from their home to town last year.
"We took the plunge and decided we needed to move into town and have a bit more of a presence," Susi Hipp said.
At the time there was little business activity around them but that had changed.
"All these shops were empty.
"There's just so much life around here now.
* HAWERA STATS
Town population: 10,944 (2006 census) Number of Taranaki Chamber of Commerce members: 30 Shop fronts in CBD: 119 tenanted, 22 empty."It's a marked increase," she said.
They deal mostly with small to medium enterprises but do service clients, with up to 70 users.
Business was slowly but surely improving and they were now looking at taking on their first employee.
All up in Hawera there were about eight IT companies, Tobias Hipp said.
A stand-out Hawera performer is Tairoa Lodge, built in 1875, which took out the 2012 Hawera Bizlink awards.
Owners Steve and Linda Morrison offer a private setting for weddings, functions and conferences.
"What we've strived to do over the years is listen to our customers."
Linda said last year was a bumper season which could be largely attributed to an old hall they added to the grounds which seats 50 people.
"The hall was the best thing we ever did even though it was the riskiest thing we ever did."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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