Venture Taranaki wins big at Economic Development NZ Awards

Last night, Venture Taranaki was acknowledged for excellence in Economic Development, taking out the Supreme Award, as well as the category award for Business Support Recovery Initiative Award, at the Economic Development New Zealand (EDNZ) Gala Awards, for its Taranaki COVID-19 Professional Services Grant Programme.

The annual awards held by EDNZ is a celebration of economic development best practice and excellence, and are an affirmation of the positive role regional economic development agencies play.

“Venture Taranaki was delighted to accept these awards for our Taranaki COVID-19 Professional Services Grant Programme. We’re immensely proud of the speed in which we were able to pull the grant programme together and this is testament to all involved,” says Justine Gilliland, Chief Executive of Venture Taranaki.

The Venture Taranaki-initiative was funded by the three Taranaki district councils, allowing VT to make small grants of up to $400 available to Taranaki small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), giving immediate access to much-needed professional advice to help to navigate the impact of COVID-19.

The grant amount was then matched by Taranaki professional service providers who offered an additional $400 worth of support in kind. This meant that SMEs were able to access a total of $800 worth of professional services support at no cost to themselves.

“While these amounts were only small, they had a huge impact for many enterprises. In a time of severe uncertainty and vulnerability, the grant enabled enterprises to prioritise and make decisions providing them with the support needed to start resolving the challenges so many of them were facing,” explains Michelle Jordan, Venture Taranaki’s General Manager Enterprise.

The need was identified, and funding for the grant was only sought and confirmed, the week prior to lockdown. Designed and stood up within a matter of days, by the time New Zealand went into level 4 restrictions on 25 March 2020, the scheme had over 20 partner providers and was already issuing grants.

“It was the speed with which this fund was set up that was paramount to its success, as well as the simplicity of application,” says Michelle.

As Venture Taranaki began to issue funding, it became apparent that charitable organisations also needed support. Seeing this need, the team at Venture Taranaki connected with Toi Foundation (previously TSB Community Trust), who were able to respond and create a similar fund for the community sector.

“We share these awards with our three district councils that provided the funding pool, the 65 professional services firms who contributed time in kind, and Toi Foundation for its support of not-for-profit enterprises,” says Justine.

“These wins are an acknowledgement of Taranaki’s abundant collaborative spirit that enabled support to be wrapped around our local enterprises as they made their way through a period of huge uncertainty,” concludes Justine.