Northland Inc’s Joseph Stuart has achieved a first for Northland after receiving the gold standard in professional accreditation at the Economic Development New Zealand 2019 Best Practice Awards.

Stuart, who was presented with an Accredited Economic Developers (AcED) certificate at the gala awards dinner at Blenheim’s Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre over the weekend, is the first business practitioner in the region to receive the honour from Economic Development New Zealand.

The designation is recognised as the gold standard for excellence in the economic development profession within New Zealand.

Economic Development New Zealand (EDNZ) was launched in 2017 as a not-for-profit, authoritative champion, partner and enabler of economic development practitioners and their associates. It supports members by providing quality professional services to enhance economic development, wellbeing and inclusive growth throughout the country.

Northland Inc’s General Manager of Business Innovation and Growth, Stuart was previously accredited in 2006 through the Economic Development Association New Zealand – a precursor to EDNZ – but had to retake the examination to attain the new standard. “It’s great to be recognised in this way, and I feel very privileged,” he said.

“EDNZ is totally focused on strengthening the professional development of its members while actively reinforcing economic development as a practice in New Zealand. As practitioners, we share our knowledge, upskill and collaborate with businesses and business people to support and strengthen our region.”

With more than 20 years’ involvement in central, regional and local government, including running his own business, Stuart has worked across the spectrum, amassing a wealth of insight and experience in how to shape, guide and grow a business, or develop a project.

Stuart, who has been at Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency, for five years, recalled that the region was a “green field” when he first arrived from Wellington. “There was not much happening in Northland then, but that’s certainly not the case now. There’s a real wave of optimism and momentum at the moment and no shortage of ideas. Things are really taking off.”

He believes he is in a unique position to help businesses catch that wave. “You could say that all of us, whether we’re creating something bespoke for Northland, starting up a business or forging our own path, are in a unique position,” he said.

“That’s especially true of Northland Inc; we have our own team of skilled practitioners who are in a privileged position to make a real difference and help create resilience in our region. Our hearts are in the right place and we’re doing it for all the right reasons.

“I’m a big believer in endogenous growth, in growth from within, and if I could help 300 local businesses hire one person each, for example, then I’ve no doubt the impact and ongoing benefit for our region would be huge.”