The expansion of Waikato Innovation Park is on track for completion in April next year, with two thirds of the new building already signed up. Just 1000 sq m is still available, with the majority of interest coming from existing Innovation Park tenants scaling up, says chief executive Stuart Gordon.
Gordon says the new building is aimed at mid-sized companies, and he expects it will have six or seven tenants and a 100 seat conference centre.
“We’ve been really pleased with the response. Most of the growth is coming out of tenants in our existing premises because they’re grown so much.”
It will feature an improved cafeteria with its own kitchen, capable of catering for conferences, and the design by local architects Edwards White will see the creation of an open, park-like area encircled on three sides by the existing and new buildings.
“The design we think is really good, and will create something of real interest,” Gordon says.
He says Innovation Park businesses continue to revolve around agritech, food and information technology.
“I would say information technology has grown quicker over the last three years, maybe four years. We’ve seen a real growth in those sorts of businesses and they are growing faster than the agritech businesses, which is fantastic for the Waikato.
“A lot of our IT companies actually come out of agritech, they’re software development for agritech, but then they’ve grown up and are going into other areas, or alternatively that expertise that has come from an agritech background has now gone into some other area.”
As firms shift across, that will free up space in the existing building, which is aimed at smaller companies, and Gordon says they will increase the co-working space and start advertising its availability in the new year.
“We find that really invigorating for the park, having new entrepreneurs coming in.”
The push is also on to attract businesses from out of town, particularly Auckland and Tauranga, and Gordon stresses the need for a collective effort to achieve that.
Accessibility will be enhanced by recently announced central Government funding initiatives that will see lights installed at the Melody Lane-Ruakura Road intersection, while further along Ruakura Road there will be a diamond connection to the Waikato Expressway.
Meanwhile, the new milk dryer factory on the site is up and running three days a week and will switch to five or six days a week once further product validations are complete, including from food giant Danone after delays caused by Covid-19.
Gordon is confident the plant, currently being used by Maui Milk and Spring Sheep Milk two days a week, will be fully utilised by November.
Gordon describes it as a real opportunity for the region, with the sheep milk industry growing rapidly. He says the factory took on 20 more employees about two months ago, bringing the total to about 40, while eight farms are using the plant, each of them employing about a further five staff.