President’s Blog – Delivering the Chamber Message in London

Hello Members,

what a busy week for the Sligo Chamber Team last week was.  From the Industrial Group Meeting on Monday at which we had a presentation from Sligo County Council CEO Ciaran Hayes, to the full Chamber Council Meeting on Tuesday morning, the mid-week Chamber Team visit to London and attending the North West Regional Assembly seminar organised by Chief Executive, David Minton on Friday.  And somehow in the midst of all that, the Sligo Chamber Skillnet Manager Geraldine Courtenay together with our CEO Aidan Doyle, managed to prepare and deliver a comprehensive technical submission and accompanying fee proposal to Skillnet Ireland in response to a “supplemental” call to support workforce transition in preparation for Brexit.  The Sligo Chamber proposal is entitled “Realising new opportunities in EU markets through Language Capability and Intercultural Awareness”.  It is an ambitious, innovative high-end progressive submission to design a new course and it builds on the theme of the National Pilot Programme the Chamber is currently rolling out on language and cultural awareness for the Tourism Sector.

But without doubt, the highlight of the week was the visit to London.  Given the importance Sligo Chamber places on balanced regional growth, it was important to use the Ireland West Airport at Knock, and while there it was great to see the internal renovations and the resplendent new aqua-marine colour theme while learning of the commencement of a contract for a new overlay and refurbishment of the runway, all part of an overall €15 million facilities upgrade.

Organised by our Events Manager Mary Harty in conjunction with Andy Rogers in London, the visit centred around a Sligo-London Business Networking Event.  The event was hosted by Eileen Monahan of the Doyle Collection in the luxurious surroundings of the The Marylebone Hotel in central London.  And how thankful we in Sligo Chamber are to Eileen for her generosity and for her attention to detail, both in the lead up to the event and during the event itself.  It really heartening to see people from Sligo such as Eileen give so selflessly to the promotion of Sligo.

For the event itself, the Sligo Chamber Team was ably represented by CEO Aidan, Mary and Geraldine together with past President Des Faul, Council Member Tara Rogers and myself as President.  The Sligo-London Business Network Event is a most important event for Sligo Chamber.  It allows us the opportunity to communicate the Sligo Chamber message to the wider Sligo business community in London.  And what a success the event proved to be.  Attended by over 150 people, it included two 3 minute business pitches by emerging young Sligo entrepreneurs based in London.   There then followed a presentation by Tomás O’Siochain, CEO of the Western Development Commission.  Drawing from their recently launched ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ strategy, Tomás spoke of the opportunities presented by remote working and how technological advances mean employees could be serving a business in London or elsewhere from a base in the West of Ireland where they and their families could be enjoying a better quality of life.

The seemingly endless waiting of a long day of preparation and more preparation finally over, it was my turn to speak as President of Sligo Chamber.  Our objective was to deliver a message of a positive Sligo, a Sligo where there is real momentum with 1,700 new jobs having been announced since obtaining Growth Centre status under the National Planning Framework Project Ireland 2040, a Sligo where some €225 million investment in infrastructure has been announced with construction underway on the N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin, the Western Distributor Road, the O’Connell Street Refurbishment and the Coolaney Mountain Bike Park and how all this fits with the Chamber’s vision of a Sligo as the central hub of a region that is fully sustainable and where our children can live, work and thrive in a safe, community-led environment offering real quality of life.

And then on to what proved to be the real highlight of the evening, the guest speaker, Michael Flatley. Preceded by a nerve-tingling playing of Riverdance to a standing ovation on the day following its 25th Anniversary, Michael, whose father was from Culfadda in South Sligo spoke movingly and from the heart of his Sligo roots, of growing up in the tough East Side of Chicago, of his boxing, and of his dreams as a young man for success.  He praised the young entrepreneurs present actively encouraging them to “live their dreams” as life passes by in a flash.  Humble and genuine, Michael finished by playing on the flute two Michael Coleman South Sligo tunes greeted with rapturous applause by an enthralled audience.

A memorable evening, a pleasure and a privilege to have been there, a real success for Sligo Chamber.

Before signing off, a reminder that the Sligo Chamber AGM is this Thursday, May 9 at the Chamber Offices starting at 6pm.  All are welcome and we look forward to seeing those interested there.

Life is for Living – #Life is Sligo.