President’s Blog – October 21, 2019 – “Such a busy Chamber”

Hello Members – “This is such a busy Chamber”, the words of Past President Fiona Candon at the Chamber Board Meeting on Tuesday morning last October 15th on hearing the list of activities currently ongoing by the Sligo Chamber Team.  And how right Fiona is.  Week after week, the Sligo Chamber Team continues to advocate, collaborate and participate, all on behalf of you, our member firms.  Last week was no different!

Monday morning kicked off at 7.00 a.m. in The Model for the Sligo Digital Town 2019 closing ceremony.  Over the course of the year this Digital Town initiative helped promote awareness for businesses and communities of the benefits of digitalisation through a series of events including a Workshop on how digitalisation can save time and money.  The theme for the closing ceremony was “Building the Western Powerhouse – digitising Sligo to accelerate growth and development”.  CEO Aidan Doyle was interviewed on video talking on the Chamber view of the benefits of digitalisation.  There then followed a panel discussion on “Sligo, The Digital Town” hosted by Bobby Kerr of Newstalk.  The panellists including Ciaran Hayes, CEO, Sligo County Council; Brendan McCormack, President, IT Sligo; David Kenny, VP at Overstock and Chair of the Tech North West Cluster; together with myself as President of Sligo Chamber responded to questions from Bobby Kerr and discussed the importance of the digital infrastructure to the future development and growth of Sligo.

It was then onto lunchtime Monday and the monthly meeting of the Sligo Chamber Industry Group.  Hosted by Jennings O’Donovan, this meeting was particularly well attended by representatives of the leading industries in Sligo.  Tomás O’Siocháin, CEO of the Western Development Commission (WDC) presented an overview to the Group on the new 2019 – 2024 WDC Strategy “Work Smarter, Live Better”.  Underpinned by three strategic pillars of regional promotion, regional leadership and sustainable enterprise, the strategy seeks to promote work-life balance and encourage people to work along the western region.  Tomás O’Siocháin outlined how the WDC would be taking a leading role in the Atlantic Economic Corridor in connecting a common message; innovating for SME growth; and in building infrastructure capacity towards a region of scale of 1 million people by the year 2040.  Smart remote working through Hubs across the region is seen by the WDC as being an important innovator for future jobs and SME growth.  The WDC are currently progressing an Enterprise Hubs Project and will be holding a Hubs Strategy Forum in Sligo on November 21st.  The WDC is a key partner of Sligo Chamber and it was important for the Industry Group to meet with Tomás O’Siocháin as CEO and hear his message firsthand.  The presentation was well received and lead to an interactive dialogue and discussion through a series of questions and answers.  Great credit is due again to the Chair of the Industry Group, David Kiely for organising Tomás O’Siocháin and David also advises that next Monday October 21st, he has arranged for the Industry Group to have a briefing with Irish Water and to have a tour of the Foxes Den Water Treatment Plant, the principal water supply to Sligo and its environs.

Tuesday morning was another early start for the monthly Sligo Chamber Board Meeting.  This was also well attended with round-the-table discussions on a variety of topics including communication, tourism, Skillnet and the activities of the industrial group.  The Chamber Board was disappointed that provision was not made in Budget 2020 to extend the “Living City Initiative” (LCI) to Sligo.  The LCI is a tax incentive scheme for Special Regeneration Areas in Ireland’s major cities through which tax relief can be claimed for expenditure on converting residential or commercial properties.   Sligo Chamber, together with Chambers Ireland had advocated for this extension in pre-budget submission.  The Board agreed to continue to advocate for extension of the LCI to Sligo as the Budget progresses through the Finance Bill.

For me it was then onto Dublin for another monthly Board Meeting, this one for the Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland for which I sit on the Executive and serve as a Director.  In Dublin also on Tuesday was our Skillnet Manager, Geraldine Courtenay, to attend a workshop from Skillnet Ireland on the upcoming submissions for the 2020 – 2022 new Skillnet Programme.  Geraldine, together with CEO Aidan, has been working diligently over the past month developing plans and supporting documentation for new courses to include in the Sligo Chamber Skillnet Submission due on November 1st.

Credit to CEO, Aidan Doyle and Events Manager, Mary Harty for putting themselves forward to parade on the catwalk at the Radisson Hotel on Wednesday night.  Our star models were playing their part in an event to raise much needed funds for local charities.

Food Tourism is an important component to the overall Tourism offering in Sligo.  Friday night saw the Harvest Festival gala dinner held at the Radisson Hotel.  Past Presidents, Des Faul and Fiona Candon together with CEO, Aidan, Events Manager, Mary and Skillnet Manager, Geraldine attended the evening dinner on behalf of Sligo Chamber.  The Harvest Festival affords the opportunity to chefs from restaurants all over Sligo to showcase the high standard of food available here and provides a marketing opportunity for Food Tourism to attract visitors to the area.

Next Monday is the October Bank Holiday, so the blog will be taking a break for that day.  No break for me though as I will be putting injuries to one side and taking my place on the start line for the Dublin City Marathon, my seventh and definitely my last!

Until next time.

Life is for Living – #Life is Sligo.

Conor McCarthy

President Sligo Chamber