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CLIENT NEWS: Private investor buys Waikato Innovation Park’s property assets

The property assets of Waikato Innovation Park, a unique business park that leverages collaboration around the agribusiness industry, have been bought by investor Neil Foster.

The sale of the property assets of Waikato Innovation Park to Mr Foster was finalised on December 15. Mr Foster says he sees the purchase as an opportunity to continue supporting innovation and economic development.

Hamilton City Council announced earlier in 2017 that it was seeking an investor who could progress the next phase of the Park’s growth. Waikato Innovation Park was established in 2000 and has been wholly owned by Hamilton City Council since 2013. In 2016 it determined it wasn’t the right party to act as property investor to achieve the vision of the Park’s master plan.

Hamilton City Council Executive Director Special Projects Blair Bowcott says there was a robust sale process as the Council wanted to ensure the vision of the Park would continue under new ownership. “Mr Foster’s investment in Waikato Innovation Park is to be applauded – we know he understands and values the purpose and achievements of the Park, so we are very pleased with this announcement.”

Mr Bowcott acknowledged the work of the Innovation Park board and management team, in achieving a successful outcome in the purchase process. “I would like to recognise the efforts of chair Earl Rattray, the wider Board of Directors and the CEO Stuart Gordon in working with Council to achieve this outcome through their many years of dedication and strategic input to grow the Park to the successful business it is today, and of course lay the platform for this sale."

Hamilton City Council will remain strongly involved in Waikato Innovation Park’s subsidiary, NZ Food Innovation Waikato, which owns the spray-dryer building on site.  About $4 million of the initial purchase price of the property arm of the Park will be channelled back into NZ Food Innovation Waikato.

Mr Foster, a Rotorua businessman, says it will be business as usual for the Park and its tenants. “It’s a winning formula for a huge economic success story thanks to a great philosophy and an array of technology based businesses.”

The Park, which sits on 17 hectares of land in Hamilton, opened in 2004 with the aim of clustering businesses to help drive economic growth. It now has four buildings including a spray dryer, and is home to 46 tenants who have more than 1600 staff between them (including 562 working onsite at the Park and 1049 offsite).

A master plan for the future growth of the park shows the potential for it to house 2500 staff, add another 12 buildings within 20 years.

The Park is distinctive in New Zealand in that it was established with public money and funding from WEL Energy Trust, the government and Hamilton City Council. It provides a collaborative environment for innovators in agribusiness and more than two-thirds of its tenant firms are exporters - collectively their gross turnover was more than $427 million in 2016, up 42% from $300 million in 2015.

Waikato Innovation Park CEO Stuart Gordon says the purpose and the DNA of the Park won’t change with the new investor, and that has been captured in the sale agreement.

The Park is well-known for its clustering of unique but linked businesses. Mr Gordon says it’s so popular that any new space being generated is secured by existing tenants, rather than tenants who are new to the Park, and therefore it needs to grow substantially to accommodate demand.

Key dates in Waikato Innovation Park Ltd’s history:

Innovation Waikato Ltd established with the Katolyst Group as the founding shareholder.

Hamilton City Council grant of $2 million.

Ministry of Economic Development grant of $2 million to construct a core facilities building; establish and operate a technology commercialisation office; establish and operate an incubator for technology businesses.

WEL Energy Trust grant of $2 million for development of Stage 1 of Waikato Innovation Park.

Construction completed on Core Facilities Building Stage 1.

Construction completed on Core Facilities Building Stage 2.

Industry NZ/MRI grant of $4 million to help fund the cost of building of a second building, and to support the off-shore business development activity of Innovation Waikato Ltd.

$2.4 million of equity comes from Hamilton City Council in support of the second building.

$3.95 million grant from Ministry of Economic Development to support the cost of construction of the spray dryer.

Construction completed on second building.

NZ Food Innovation (Waikato) Ltd established.

Waikato Innovation Park Ltd established.

Construction completed on spray dryer facility.

Katolyst Group shareholding transfers to Hamilton City Council.

Callaghan Innovation invests $3 million to NZ Food Innovation (Waikato) Ltd.

Construction of third building for Tetra Pak.

Master plan for Waikato Innovation Park Ltd unveiled.

Investment sought to fund master plan for Innovation Park.