Hamilton migrant businesses welcomed

IMMIGRANTS' ADVOCATE: Kane Smith (centre) will support Hamilton’s growing migrant business community.
IMMIGRANTS' ADVOCATE: Kane Smith (centre) will support Hamilton’s growing migrant business community.

Hamilton's migrant community is the focus for local businessman Kane Smith.

The Hamilton Central Business Association (HCBA) charged Smith, its newest board member, with supporting migrant businesses in the central business district (CBD).

He is the key part of a plan to make Hamilton a viable location for skilled people to set up shop, even if they don't yet understand Kiwi culture.

The HCBA estimates that 25 per cent of the 980 retail businesses in the CBD are owned by people not born in New Zealand.

Chief executive Sandy Turner said migrant business operators from western countries like England, the USA and South Africa were vocal in the association, but businesses owned by Chinese, Koreans, Indians and other nationalities weren't well represented.

"Not in the way we would like to represent them anyway," said Turner.

She said the HCBA had noticed most city centres in New Zealand didn't look after migrant businesses very well.

"We've recognised there's a gap, and we'd like to pitch our city as ‘migrant friendly'."

Smith has a background in accounting, and runs the Hamilton English Language School (HELS).

HELS is preparing to receive full NZQA accreditation in June. The school will run five full-time classes of 12 students each, and plans to grow in capacity over the next five years.

Smith said, as well as Asian students, HELS trains non-English-speaking Europeans and other migrants, including a growing number of Brazilians.

He plans to use his contacts in the migrant community to network and provide assistance where required.

"At the moment there are many people who have so much talent," he said. "But because they don't know the Kiwi way of doing things they can't start."

He said people with successful businesses in their own countries sometimes struggled to find the right contacts and make the best business decisions here.

He said there was a "huge gap in the market" because migrants offered unique skills that often went unnoticed and under-utilised.

Smith knows a pastry chef who has set up a business in the wrong part of the CBD for his target market. He thinks the chef would have a successful business if hed had better advice.

He said communication with local businesspeople could help avoid these mistakes, and get more businesses up and running.

"I don't like to see untenanted buildings, and that's the reality right now. Hopefully I can help to eliminate that, that's one of my goals."