Not many new-office opening functions pack in as much as Fuji Xerox’s launch of its new Wellington base last week.
The function included addresses on what’s wrong with the economy and how we might put it right, from NZ Stock Exchange CEO Mark Weldon and Professor Sir Paul Callaghan, head of Victoria University’s McDiarmid Institute.
Callaghan emphasises that “the real engine of an economy is innovation.
“New Zealand is incredibly good at what we do,” he says, “but what we do is supply very low-value products to the rest of the world.”
Our highest-value industries like dairy are polluting and difficult to scale up to match other countries’ productivity. Tourism earns $77,000 per job and the dairy industry about $400,000 per job, but Samsung earns $1.3m per job from electronics, he says.
Until we move more effort into very high-value innovative products like those of the ICT industry, we will not achieve our goals of matching the economic performance of Australia or other leading OECD nations, Callaghan says.
The current sharemarket recovery shows we will be “largely through” the depressed period by the first quarter of next year, if we’re not there already, Weldon says.
There is considerable capital-raising activity, some of it refinancing companies that have taken on too much debt, but reflect genuine aspirations to growth. “Inertia” in the market, which exceeded Treasury’s predictions, is now “pretty quickly unfreezing”, he says.
The “opportunity side” of business is now stronger than the “risk side” in New Zealand, he says. On the risk side, the “statistic of the year” concerns the $200 billion of rental housing stock in New Zealand. Last year, says Weldon, taxpayers paid $560 million to fund that sector. That’s money that could be better employed in investment in productive sectors and people.
Weldon is on the government’s taxation working group and signals that an adjustment to tax rates is sorely needed to encourage an investment shift.
At the launch, a new multifunction copier/printer, the Apeos IV, was on display, with emphasis on low power consumption and other “green” values such as low melting-point toner, low-power LED scanning lamps and internal parts made of biodegradable plastic.
To round the evening off, two young stars of New Zealand opera performed arias and a duet from Bizet’s Carmen and Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
The new Wellington headquarters is larger and more cleanly laid out than Fuji Xerox’s old offices, which were “a bit like a rabbit warren” and not conducive to communication and collaboration — an irony given the increasing networking emphasis of the company’s products, says Fuji Xerox NZ managing director Neil Whittaker.
The larger spaces make it easier to display and demonstrate the company’s equipment to a wider range of ICT-oriented buyers, as well as those interested in simple office equipment, he says.