• Video: Hawke's Bay businesses keen to work together after tough year, says local Chamber of Commerce CEO

Video: Hawke's Bay businesses keen to work together after tough year, says local Chamber of Commerce CEO

After a tough year with Cyclone Gabrielle and an economic crunch, local businesses are keen to work together to achieve success, says Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce CEO Karla Lee.

Lee told Hawke’s Bay App that despite a tough 2023, there was cause for optimism, but it would require business working with each other and encouraging each other.

“We've done the hard yards of really going from total survival mode at the start of the year to coming out on top and really fighting for it. And it just made everyone dig in even deeper to see what we were really made of. That gives me true optimism going into '24. These businesses want to get up. They want to go, they want to interact, they want to connect.”

“They're about community, and that's going to be a huge thing going into '24 to ensure that we're still connecting with one another and keeping that whole relationship going and going forward.”

Lee says it is important that business take nothing for granted.

“We've got to actually appreciate one another. We've got to lift each other as we're lifting ourselves. My president often says the story that one boat cannot rise in the ocean. We have the tide has to rise for everybody. And that's what I want everyone to look at and see and continue doing into '24 so that we can continue to work hard, but work hard together.”

She says the that the last few years has been tough on small businesses, starting with COVID-19 and then the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle combined with the cost of living crisis.

All this has led to a number of local businesses closing.

“In that first round of funding when we first came out from the cyclone, the funding really was for those businesses who could see that they had a chance of getting up and running again. And there were quite a number of businesses who wouldn't be able to get up and running again. Or how could they pay for the bills and the expenses for their industry costs and their running costs?”

“There's all sorts of people that had these challenges and that's when we saw, and this is just one area, but this is where we saw it was too hard for businesses to continue. If they could make it first through the first three to six months, they had a much better chance of staying in business. But we did lose quite a few in that first quarter of the year, and that was really tough for everyone.The Chamber worked with MSD quite closely. We tried to give them different work and retrain them, but that doesn't suit everyone.”

“The businesses in Hawke's Bay have really been surviving, and they've done everything they can to stay in the game and to keep their employees as well.”

Lee says that a highlight of last year was the Chamber’s Business of the Year competition.

“It was actually one of our best. So this is the seventh Business Awards I've been involved with the Chamber.”

“So the vibe was incredible. Our supreme winner was Topline Contracting. It was a beautiful night and one that was just raising the tide for all businesses, because they were really reaching out to help one another. So everything I saw right at the start of the year, that whole humanitarian where we really cared about each other and we wanted to help one another, even though we were all really tired ourselves, that came back in full force at the Business Awards. And it was a phenomenal night, and businesses really enjoyed it. Looking forward to next year.”

To see the full interview with Karla Lee, conducted at the end of last year, please watch the accompanying video. Lee gives her impressions of the new Government and changes they are making.