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Investment into Dunedin

By Anna Campbell

“Success breeds success” is an oft-used phrase in life and business. Is it true? And if it is true, how do we create the success in the first place so more is bred?

John Coates, a trader-turned-neuroscientist, uses biochemistry to describe this success factor as the “winner’s effect” citing testosterone as “the hormone of economic bubbles”.

Of course the flipside of success is complacency, arrogance, and hubris, which in turn lead to excess production of “the hormone of economic busts – cortisol”.

Can we have one without the other?

Let’s have a look at Dunedin, a city that has been muddling along without much obvious success for some time.

Our population is aging and dwindling, our high schools are facing lower student numbers, and much of the city’s wealth is tied up with comfortable, non-risk taking baby boomers.

Harsh words? I agree and apologies if I have offended, but many of us who live here shake our heads in despair as we understand what a jewel we have in our “10 minute city”. We want to see this city thrive once more.

How do we inject more testosterone into the city (difficult analogy for a feminist to stomach), to stimulate a reversal of Dunedin being a great place to visit, retire but not necessarily to work and live?

I have written about this before, and no doubt I will write about it again, as I do believe that part of creating sustainable success, and avoiding the bubble-burst phenomenon, is the constant need to assess where we are and how we can improve and be better.

Dunedin, in pockets, is showing some signs of life.

The vision of Dunedin being a “smart-city” and the tech opportunities are compelling. Also compelling are the opportunities created by international investment into two of the city’s largest companies, Scott Technology and Silver Fern Farms.

If the partnerships work as planned, we will see company growth and the wider ripples that creates.

Hand-in-hand with that growth, we need to give our city leaders the mandate to attract other international investment to further stimulate growth – whether that be through building a five-star hotel or other opportunities.

How wide will those ripples spread?

I read with great interest a particularly good and hard-hitting opinion piece written by Randall Scott, some months ago in the Otago Daily Times, where he questioned the value of creating high-tech jobs for those in the community who are struggling to get by.

Essentially what he was saying was that we need more jobs for the less-skilled as well as the high-tech opportunities.

In reality, it will take some years to create a wider vibrancy with the growth of high-tech firms. This type of growth should have ripple effects on the economy by firstly lowering the age of our working population by attracting early career people, often with young families to the city.

In general, with new population growth comes requirements for housing and services. This means more work for builders, plumbers, nurses, and teachers, and more work for others in the community who are struggling to get by.

There will be people who disagree with me and argue that this “trickle down” effect simply doesn’t work.

The rich get richer, and the middle and poor continue to struggle. Can we learn from where this has gone wrong in the past?

If we go back to John Coates’s biochemical analogy, can we have the testosterone without the cortisol? Can we be an exemplar city where there is growth and wealth, and also a sense of community and caring?

I truly believe we can, and it is up to all of us, the citizens of Dunedin.

I say, pump in the testosterone, attract the international investment, but let’s balance it with some estrogen! Let’s be a city which grows and cares.

There is a saying that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, the strategy is there to be driven by our city and business leaders, the culture lies with all of us.