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Robin Ratcliffe - credit Waikato Times
 Credit Waikato Times

GDP is only half the story

Robin Ratcliffe is very aware of how his firm fits into and contributes to the Waikato region’s economy – but it’s not just about the dollars for him. There’s been moderate growth in our real gross domestic product (GDP) in the Waikato region between 2007 and 2013 and firms like Robin’s are part of the picture contributing to that increase.

He and his family have developed their Hamilton-based heavy transport and trailer manufacturing firm, Modern Transport Engineers (MTE) Limited, over many years of dedication. The company’s operations also extend into Brisbane, Australia. Nine family members work within the Modern Group. Their commitment to their company is echoed in their connection to living and working within the Waikato region.

“We’re descendants of the first settler child born in New Zealand in 1841, so our family’s been in this region for a long time! Why? Because it’s a good place to bring up family – we have two sons and six grandchildren. Hamilton is also central to the east and west coasts, the mountains, large lakes and harbours – everything is just a drive away. Plus we feel it’s a pretty safe place to live and the weather’s pretty good most of the time.”

From a business perspective, Robin says links across global, national and regional economies mean that MTE can import parts from other countries, saving on labour costs. “That means we can focus on training and support for family members and other associates who are filling the more technical roles here at home.” It also means the company has a better chance of competing on the national and international business stage, while contributing directly to this region’s economy at the same time.

While the ongoing success of Robin’s business reflects our region’s moderate growth in GDP per person (and a slowdown in economic growth following the global financial crisis), we’re still lagging behind the national average by around 10 per cent. However, this is largely due to the influence of a higher than average GDP per person in Auckland and Wellington. In real terms, Waikato region’s GDP per person increased around 16 per cent – from $37,166 in 2007, to $42,968 in 2013.

So ensuring his business remains economically successful is essential, Robin says, but “... money isn’t everything. If it were, we’d be living and working in America”. He says the quality of life in the Waikato is another key reason why his family has been calling this region home for so long. “We like living and working in the Waikato for lots of other reasons.”

Read other stories from people living in our region.