IF THE world is looking for the next Mark Zuckerberg, Hewlett Packard's regional head reckons the Gold Coast could be a good place to start.
Sean Girvin (pictured left), the South Pacific vice-president of sales enterprise services for HP, is spearheading a push by the global technology giant into the Gold Coast, taking the first step by establishing a dedicated office in the city for the first time.
Girvin says HP's Southport base aims to tap emerging opportunities, as well as the talent that is coming through the Gold Coast's growing education sector as part of its ongoing recruitment drive.
He also rates the opportunities leading up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games as significant for HP and the Gold Coast, a market that he believes has been "misunderstood".
Girvin says Sydney is known as a financial centre, Melbourne is famed for its industrial base, while even Adelaide has hung its hat on the car industry and wine production.
"I haven't actually seen the identity of the Gold Coast and I can say this with conviction because I have no preconceived notions," says the Canada-born Girvin, who is based in Sydney.
While Girvin concedes there is an exploratory element to the Gold Coast move, there is also an underlying commercial imperative.
Girvin sees the Gold Coast "at an inflection point" thanks to the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the Mayor Tom Tate's drive to create a true CBD at Southport for the city.
"The Gold Coast is on a growth trajectory and this has a really interesting mix," he says.
Girvin describes the Gold Coast as a "conglomeration of multiple villages", not unlike New York City, but the CBD push is a key element to developing the city's future identity.
"When you combine the six or seven boroughs, or smaller cities, when you start to bring that together here you have the sixth-largest population in the country. As a multinational that has a large market presence, it would be remiss not to have market presence in a city as large and diverse as the Gold Coast."
Girvin describes the Commonwealth Games as "without question the largest event in Australia this decade", and that the opportunities it affords should not be underestimated.
"The ability to capture that market and leverage the investment from the infrastructure and how that moves forward can be game changing. Those are the things that are really interesting to me.
"Gold Coast is a market we haven't invested in or tapped into from a commerce perspective. There is an addressable market here that has business needs that we can service."
Girvin says the Gold Coast expansion is part of an overall Australian and New Zealand strategy by HP to boost its presence in financial services and state government, which includes transport, law enforcement, education and healthcare services.
He says HP is under-represented in these sectors in Queensland which until now was serviced by its Brisbane office.
"When you look at the concentration and size of the Gold Coast I think it's an area that is really a little misunderstood as a tourist destination," he says.
"Other than government I think Riviera Group is one of the largest employers in the marketplace, but there is a huge investment in education."
Girvin sees opportunities for HP to tap into the university and education space as part of rebuilding its workforce through internships. The company already sponsors the $10,000 Mayor's Telstra Technology Award at Bond University.
"I am a big proponent of the next generation and there is no monopoly on good thoughts," says Girvin.
"There's no reason why the next Mark Zuckerberg can't come out of the Gold Coast.
"You have a large population that is in close proximity to Brisbane and you have a good student education base. But the challenge is where do they go from there? Traditionally they will go into the tourism industry or they will go elsewhere."
Girvin says HP's vision is to build on its relationships on the Gold Coast to source the "brightest minds" for its workforce and provide career paths for Gold Coast graduates.
HP, the company that kick-started Silicon Valley, employs about 5000 people across Australia and about 300,000 globally.
The company has a strong relationship with Telstra and initially plans to leverage off that to build on its Gold Coast operations.
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