Business or pleasure? Who cares. Before getting cosy with someone, you need to get to know what makes them tick. Regional economics is no different.
Put people at the core. Suss each other out, and then the business will be based on something meaningful.
That’s Benje’s approach to doing business.
He has always done things a little differently to most, so here’s more on his path to becoming a regional economics expert.
A bit of an odd kid
Benje was probably mildly reminiscent of Forest Gump as a kid.
As an 8-year-old lad from Invercargill, he ran a 1 hr 37 min half marathon on a hilly Queenstown course.
That run created a mini media storm, with some claiming he must have had pushy parents – an absurd concept to young Benje, who would have run faster had he not spent the first half jogging slowly with his dad.
For the record, his dad eventually finished the race 8 or 9 minutes later.
Benje’s athletic determination soon began to be channelled into the classroom.
Numbers came easy to Benje, something he attributes to passing the time calculating kilometre splits and estimated finish times off an analogue watch as he ran.
Spreading his wings
His teenage years were a mixture of sport and study. Restless feet and his frustrations at the institutionalised-nature of school gave way to a high school exchange year in Denmark.
After school, Benje headed up the road to Dunedin, where he studied Finance, Economics and German at Otago University before moving to Germany where he received a Master’s degree in Economics and Politics, on scholarship from the German Government.
Amongst study, Benje continued his athletic endeavours, with a highlight being crowned winner of the two day Speight’s Coast to Coast multisport race across the South Island, aged 19 – the youngest ever victor at that time.
A Yo Pro in the capital…
On returning to New Zealand from Germany, Benje headed to Wellington to start a career in economics.
Benje initially cut his teeth in economic forecasting, and commentating on issues such as housing, monetary policy, transport, tourism, fiscal policy, trade, and the international economy.
The high-paced nature of this work taught Benje to think on his feet and cut to the chase when helping clients make sense of the numbers.
But there were also downsides.
Benje quickly became frustrated with the big city-focused approach of macroeconomic commentating in New Zealand.
A lot of Wellington-centric economics is overly-focused on creating sound bites, with the intent on boosting media appeal.
Economists in Wellington and Auckland are generally disconnected from people in the regions.
Numbers are aggregated into high level concepts devoid of the people and places that ultimately underpin them.
A return to his regional roots
Benje began to channel these frustrations into understanding the regions and speaking out on regional economic matters.
Luckily for Benje, his employer at the time, Infometrics, was ahead of the game on this front and had developed an unprecedented system of regional economic monitoring and reporting.
Armed with this tool and a can-do attitude, Benje helped expand the firm’s regional operations to encompass ongoing relationships, on a subscription and consulting-basis, with virtually every local authority and economic development agency in the country.
Along the way, Benje met a lot of passionate people making a difference in business, economic development, and government in regional New Zealand.
He developed a passion for mentoring these people to use economic data in decision-making and monitoring processes.
Benje’s evolution into regional economics also became personal. He and his family left Wellington to set up home in the beautiful Southern Lakes. Spending time outside amid such inspiring landscapes gives Benje a lot space to reflect and think, with the ease of remote working still allowing Benje to assist clients throughout the country.
Empowering decision-making in the regions
Firmly grounded now as an independent regional economist, Benje looks forward to helping you and your organisation solve challenging problems, with little fuss.
Benje has an unparalleled awareness of what regional economic data is available. He not only has a firm grasp of what information others use, but also has a detailed understanding of the breadth and quality of regional economic data that is available from both commercial and central government sources.
He works well with staff, leaders and elected officials alike. Benje can assist your organisation in a variety of ways:
- Presentations, workshops, roadshows for you or your stakeholders
- Policy assessments and strategic analysis
- Industry and region-focused research and reports tailored to your needs
- Professional development workshops for teams and leaders
- Customised contracting for organisations needing extensive regional economic and strategic input but can’t justify a permanent full-time resource
- A sounding board service with unfettered access to Benje
- In-house briefings at planning sessions, board meetings and to elected officials
- KPI reviews to make sure you are efficiently capturing outcomes that matter
- Wellbeing/living standards audits to ensure organisation policies and goals are consistent with government and legislative requirements
If you think that Benje is the kind of guy you could work with, then get in touch.