Focus: Sligo Chamber/BID Industry Group

By CEO Aidan Doyle

There may be a perception that a Chamber of Commerce only exists to represent town centre businesses. It’s an image that has persisted, but the reality is somewhat different. Let me explain.

In 1783, Dublin Chamber was established, replacing several guilds of merchants, and becoming the capital city’s main body representing business. Other towns followed suit like Limerick in 1807 and Cork in 1819.

Representing ‘merchants’ was usually the go-to phrase of the day so maybe it’s not too surprising that this image has endured.

When Sligo Chamber was established on September 21, 1923, it stated it had the express purpose of developing existing business and attracting industry to Sligo.

The role of industry in developing Sligo has always been of paramount importance. That’s why Sligo Chamber of Commerce and Industry can draw on regular support from industry partners across the region.

Every month Sligo Chamber/BID Industry Group meets to discuss the latest developments affecting Sligo. It’s a forum where our key employers and companies with critical expertise can add their input to a particular issue.

Because of the current pandemic, the meetings, as you can see from our pictures, are currently being held online but of course we hope for and look forward to the resumption of face-to-face encounters as soon as it is safe to do so.

So, what happens at a typical Industry Group meeting and how does it benefit Sligo?

Last month, for example, 12 members assembled for our meeting to discuss a range of diverse issues facing Sligo and the North West region. Members of the group included representatives from various sectors including Multinational companies, SME’s, Engineering, Agencies, Telecoms, IT and Educational Institutions

The Industry Group meeting is a chance for us and our partners to bring each other up to date on key projects, to report on the progress of infrastructure and housing initiatives and comment on other matters affecting Sligo and the region. As a Chamber, we then pass on our opinions to the decision and policy makers.

One of the first items on the agenda last month was support for Ireland West Airport – the most important strategic transport centre in our region. The airport had over 800,000 passengers in 2019, dropping to less than 170,000 this year, so it’s vital that the airport is given a lifeline from Government.

Other topics for discussion included the Living Cities initiative and Sligo’s new Public Realm enhancement plans that could transform the centre of the town. During the meeting, feedback was given, and opinions expressed. It’s our job to take those away and feedback to relevant bodies at a local, national and EU level.

In a wide-ranging meeting, the group moved on to chat about the re-development of Connaughton Road and Holborn Street, the progress of the National Rural Broadband scheme and a localised gas network.

We also discussed support for the Connacht Ulster Alliance application for Technical University (TU) status, EU Cohesion Fund 2021 – 2027 spending through the Northern and Western Regional Assembly’s “Let’s Be More” campaign, plans for the docks area of Sligo and even ideas to create animated or Virtual Reality (VR) tours of Sligo companies.

Finally, we discussed the rollout of various new training programmes offered by Sligo Chamber Skillnet. These meet the almost constant demand for upskilling in the region and as a Chamber, we are able to part-fund that essential work. So, as you can see – the agenda is extremely diverse and cuts across all sectors of life in Sligo.

The Industry Group meeting ended with an expression of solidarity to all the businesses that are being impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown measures.

As usual, the discussion gave us in Sligo Chamber another tranche of valuable insight and information that can help us deliver for Sligo. By working together and listening to businesses – whether they be traditional ‘merchants’, SMEs or large-scale employers, we will continue to advance Sligo and the region – and business – together.