President’s Blog – October 14, 2019 – €8million increase in Skillnet Funding

Hello Members – Last Tuesday morning, the Sligo Chamber Team attended the official opening of the new Sligo Office of Overstock.  Founded in 1999, Overstock is an on-line internet retailer headquartered in Utah in the U.S.  Overstock is a household name in the U.S. and Canada specialising in selling a broad range of products in the latest up-market trends including bedding, furniture, rugs and general home improvements.  Overstock branched out to Ireland in 2013.  Starting then with just 7 employees in Sligo, they have steadily grown to 76 and expect to reach 100 by the end of the year.

Speaking at the opening of their splendid new facility at Finisklin, the Overstock President David Neilsen spoke glowingly of Sligo as a location, and of how the site team led by David Kenny and Lucia Mc Carrick had successfully recreated the Overstock culture thousands of miles away from the company home base in Utah.  In his address, David Kenny also referred to the culture of Sligo, the archaeological and literary heritage of the surrounding area which, when taken with the talent available from IT Sligo, made Sligo the ideal location for Overstock to thrive and to grow.  With their talented software developers, Overstock is progressively driving innovation.  The recent establishment of the Tech North West Cluster has created a sense of togetherness among the Tech Sector in Sligo.  There is a real sense that lasting careers can be forged in the Tech Sector here in Sligo and in an environment that offers a quality of life not readily available elsewhere.

We in Sligo Chamber can clearly remember when Overstock first visited Sligo in 2013 and we have closely followed them on their journey as they have grown and matured to now in the week where, as Overstock the company celebrates its 20th Year Anniversary, Overstock in Sligo celebrates its new offices.  This is a further example of the momentum that is building in Sligo, momentum that we in Sligo Chamber are seeking to lead out in collaboration with our partners across the public and private sector.

One the main events Sligo Chamber hosts every year is the Budget Breakfast Analysis.  It was an early start on Wednesday morning for the Sligo Chamber Team at the Sligo Park Hotel for the event, an event much looked forward to by representatives from our member firms.  The large attendance drawn from accounting and solicitor practices, retail, tourism, professional services and the self-employed listened attentively as Martin Coggins delivered his analysis and assessment of Budget 2020 in his own inimitable style.

From the many points of interest in a budget being delivered in an uncertain and unprecedented time because of Brexit, I would reference two particular items from a Sligo Chamber perspective, one positive and one not so positive and on which more work needs to be done.  Starting with the less positive, it was disappointing that the Living Cities Tax Incentive Scheme was not extended to Sligo and other urban areas.  Our member firms are telling Sligo Chamber that it is becoming more difficult for their employees to find accommodation in Sligo.  The objective of Sligo County Council is to develop housing outwards, starting from the core.  Sligo Chamber advocated to have the Living Cities Initiative extended beyond the year 2020 and to have the initiative extended to Sligo.  Whilst the overall initiative was extended to 2022, Sligo was not included.  For the initiative to be effective it needs to be amended so that it benefits a broader range of urban areas including Sligo.   Sligo has been designated a Regional Growth Centre.   The Living Cities Initiative should extend to Sligo.  We will continue to advocate to have the Initiative awarded to include Sligo as the Budget passes through the Finance Bill.

On a more positive note, regular readers of the Blog would be aware of how important the Sligo Chamber Skillnet offering is in providing high quality training to our member firms here in Sligo.  It was most positive to hear Minister Donoghue announce an increase of almost 30% in the Skillnet Ireland allocation as part of Budget 2020.  This translates into an €8 million increase in funding on 2019.  An increase of this scale at the time of a prudent budget helps underpin the Sligo Chamber strategy of developing our Skillnet offering through in-employment upskilling and lifelong learning, all to support the continued development of our member firms.

Encouraged by the positive budget news, the Sligo Skillnet Steering Group met at the Chamber offices on Thursday morning.  The purpose of the meeting was to input to and review the current status of the Sligo Chamber Skillnet submission for funding for the new Skillnet Training Programme 2020 – 2022.  This is the first time the Skillnet Training Programme extends over a rolling three-year period having heretofore been on an annual basis.   It is therefore of vital importance, in order to be in  position to support the training needs of our member firms, that the Sligo Chamber Skillnet submission is of the highest quality.    Work on the completion of the submission will continue by our Skillnet Manager, Geraldine Courtenay over the next three weeks with the final documentation due for lodgement on November 1st.

Until next time.

Life is for Living – #Life is Sligo.

Conor McCarthy

President Sligo Chamber