President’s Blog – October 7, 2019 – “The Triple Helix”

Hello Members – The Sligo Chamber Team advocates on behalf of its member firms and their employees at local, regional and national level.  Last week, the Blog described how CEO Aidan Doyle represented Sligo Chamber at national level through his submission and presentation at Government Buildings to the Oireachtas Budget Oversight Committee followed by his presentation to the T.Ds. from the North West Region at the Chambers Ireland pre-budget briefing.

Meanwhile, back in Sligo, representation by Sligo Chamber at local level was ongoing through participation in the bi-monthly meeting of the Sligo Economic Forum.  The Forum is made up of representatives from both the public and private sectors.  These include Sligo County Council, LEO, IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Failte Ireland, IT Sligo, St. Angela’s College together with representatives from business and industry.  I attended the Forum meeting in my capacity as President of Sligo Chamber.  The Forum has set itself a task of preparing a strategy for the development of Sligo.  Entitled “Sligo 2020 – 2030”, the strategy is intended to be a key enabler to attract European funding for major projects as Sligo seeks to position itself as a Smart City.

Attendance at the September meeting of the Sligo Economic Forum was particularly important to hear a presentation from a visiting delegation from Europe who are providing technical advisory support to the Forum in the development of the “Sligo 2020 – 2030” strategy.   The delegation was from JASPERS, (Joint Assistance to Support Projects in European Regions).  JASPERS’ partners are the European Commission, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).  JASPERS assistance to Sligo in the development of this strategy is seen as being key to successfully preparing programmes and urban schemes for the city and the county that will ultimately be recipients of European funding for developments.  I found it most interesting to hear the views of the delegation as they look on Sligo from the outside on the type of programmes Sligo should be considering for its future development.  “The Triple Helix” was mentioned as being one concept where Sligo as the leading city would link with IT Sligo and Businesses, all coming together to deliver Sligo as a Smart City of the future. We at Sligo Chamber look forward to participating in the development of the “Sligo 2020 – 2030” Strategy.  The plan for the Sligo Economic Forum is to work with the advisory support from JASPERS and to produce the “Sligo 2020 – 2030” Strategy in the next six months.

On Thursday morning, Sligo Chamber Events Manager, Mary Harty, organised a Breakfast Briefing on new developments in Pension Provision.  Attended by over 50 people in the Sligo Park Hotel, the briefing was undertaken in conjunction with Zurich Life and Money Plus.   In relation to pensions, the principle new development is Auto Enrolment whereby it will become a statutory duty for employers to enrol employees in pension funds.  Among the key statistics presented at the briefing were:

  • SME sector is seriously under-covered in terms of pension provision.
  • Only 35% of the private sector have pensions.
  • Target date for Auto Enrolment is 2020.
  • Employees to contribute 1% in Year 1 rising to 6% by Year 6.
  • Employers are to match the employee contributions.
  • Central Processing Agency to be established to hold all data.

This new development, Auto Enrolment, while welcome for employees, will no doubt place a considerable burden on the SME sector.  It is important that companies are aware that this is coming and that compliance will be statutory.  Getting this message and other similar messages across to member firms is part of what Sligo Chamber continues to do through events such as this Breakfast Briefing.

Moving to Friday morning and the National Enterprising Towns Awards Competition.  This is a prestigious national award sponsored by Bank of Ireland to find Ireland’s most enterprising town.  Friday was the opportunity for Sligo to make its presentation to the judging panel.  Led by Ciaran Hayes, CEO, Sligo County Council, assisted by leaders from the public and private sector, the presentation focused on leadership, collaboration, and success stories from Sligo in the ICT Cluster and the Atlantic Medtech Cluster.  I attended the event of behalf of Sligo Chamber and participated in a Q&A session with members of the judging panel.  Sligo as a team delivered professionally and with passion and pride.  The results and overall winner will be announced in December.

Until next time.

Life is for Living – #Life is Sligo.

Conor McCarthy

President Sligo Chamber