President’s Blog – “Think Small First”!

Hello Members,

it was far from a relaxing start to the week for me when last Monday morning an email arrived from Chambers Ireland requesting me to prepare a submission to the Office of Government Procurement, known as the OGP, on the issues currently facing Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs).  The submission was required ahead of a meeting between Ian Talbot, Chief Executive, Chambers Ireland and Patrick O’Donovan T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform with special responsibility for Procurement.  The meeting would be on Wednesday! No pressure!  I had only myself to blame. Readers of last week’s blog may recall my mentioning the Chambers Ireland Manifesto for the European Parliament elections from which a key takeaway for me was:

  • Prioritise “Think Small First” principle across new regulations so that red tape for SMEs is minimised.

This was also an issue which I addressed at meetings during the Chambers Ireland Delegation visit to the European Commission and the European Parliament in Brussels in February, in particular with Ambassador Joe Hackett, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ireland to the EU.  So nothing better for it other than to knuckle down, put pen to paper and state the case that SMEs provide the backbone of employment across the country and that more needs to be done by the Office of Government Procurement to allow a fair playing field for SMEs who are being forced to compete for business with much larger firms.

The submission  went on to set out the Sligo Chamber position that in addition to the value aspect of services, there should also be a focus on the level of responsiveness, and a focus on the scale of the competition, to breakdown competitions on a regional or local basis where appropriate, all in an attempt to achieve a more transparent level playing field for SMEs.  The case was also made for a reduction in paperwork as SMEs are not in a position to compete with larger organisations in terms of the quantity of documentation regularly required in prequalifying and in tendering for public projects.

Sligo Chamber received really good news on Tuesday evening in that funding was received from Gas Networks Ireland to further investigate the potential of a Local Gas Network for Sligo.  Securing this funding enables the progression of one of the recommendations of Sligo Chamber in its Vision for Sligo 2040, that viability of a Local Gas Network for Sligo be examined.  Sligo Chamber as part of the Sligo Sustainable Energy Committee (SEC) played a leading role in the preparation in September 2018 of a comprehensive submission to the Project Ireland 2040 Urban Regeneration & Development Fund which unfortunately was unsuccessful.  This latest news of a successful application to the Gas Networks Ireland Innovation Fund will allow Sligo SEC investigate the Business Case and undertake a front end engineering design.  Project delivery will be through IT Sligo who will enter into a contract with Gas Networks Ireland.  A Technical Steering Group will be formed chaired by IT Sligo and comprising members from IDA, Sligo County Council, Teagasc, the Utilities Regulator, as well as Gas Networks Ireland and Sligo Chamber.  The completed study will provide a platform for future applications for capital infrastructure funding to Project Ireland 2040 or E.U. sources for the development of a Local Gas Network for Sligo.

Thursday morning, and it was an early 7.30 a.m. start in the Glasshouse Hotel for a Breakfast Workshop hosted by Sligo Chamber in partnership with the Local Enterprise Office.  The Workshop focus was on strategies and supports to address the opportunities and challenges facing SMEs when the UK leaves the EU on March 29, 2019.  The attendance drawn from businesses across Sligo heard practical advice on financial and currency management, VAT and other tax considerations, customs as well as on available grants and other tax considerations.

Onto late Thursday afternoon and a meeting in my role as Chamber President with IDA and potential Investor to Sligo. On behalf of the Chamber, I put forward a positive message for businesses seeking to invest in the region and how we, in the Chamber, work collaboratively with all the agencies in Sligo including IT Sligo, Sligo County Council, the business community and, of course, the IDA.

So that is it for another week, and remember

Life is for living – Life is Sligo.


Conor McCarthy

President Sligo Chamber