By Anna Larsen, Manager, Welcome Bay Community Centre Inc
The Community Centre in Welcome Bay is in the heart of a unique Tauranga suburb. Welcome Bay’s nearly 18 thousand people make up 1/6th of Tauranga’s population, yet it has very little social infrastructure and virtually no employment opportunities.  The suburb acts as a dormitory, with most people in paid employment, and all school students over 11 commuting out of the suburb daily.  Teaching is the main occupation in Welcome Bay – we have four primary schools, two state kindergartens and a number of Early Childhood Education centres. There is no public library, very few recreational facilities, and no supermarket.  There is very little within the community that traps money in a local economy.

But there IS a strong core of home-based self-employed businesses, and without casting our net very wide, we discovered that when it comes to practical skills, you don’t need to go far to cover most of the trades. Our community should be able to meet most of our business needs without going outside of the local business sector.  The missing link is that we don’t know each other, yet one of the greatest users of business is business!

The Welcome Bay Community Centre has been actively engaging with business people over the past couple of years through the establishment of a Business Network.  It’s been a slow process, but the local business community has been keen to engage with the wider community.

We held a Business Network Breakfast in January 2014. The Tauranga City Council’s Chief Executive, who was new to the city as well as his job then, was our guest speaker. His presentation in front of a packed room generated some wonderful conversation focussed on the local community, and gave him some grunty food for thought to chew on.  Subsequent breakfasts featuring the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce’s Chief Executive and our local MP have also been a great success.  We also encourage breakfast network participants to bring their business opportunities to the wider local community.

Our next step is to invite them to support a local quarterly publication that will appeal to the community with relevant editorial content, interesting articles, informative columns and a directory of the local businesses.  We’re keen to make sure our local business people are connected to each other and to our local people. It’s part of generating a sense of belonging and engagement in our great place.

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