Supporting Sligo Business in Tough Times

The virtual world intersected with the real world last week as we held our AGM via a live Zoom broadcast.

In addition to the Chamber’s latest financial report and other matters, we were delighted that so many members took the time to get an overview of our work during these strangest of times .

Members also heard from our president Karl Kelly who reminded us of the February visit to London for the 20th anniversary of the Sligo/London Business Network.

Who knew then that it would be our last public outing for some time? At that stage the Sligo region was enjoying long-awaited infrastructural investment and a slew of jobs announcements.

Here is an edited version of Karl’s address to the AGM as he looks ahead to the rest of the year and 2021.

“The road to recovery from the Covid19 pandemic will be a long one but I am certain that if we all work together, we will get there.

“We need more than ever to support local wherever possible so we can collectively get Sligo and the wider region up and running and back in business.

“Whilst recovery will be more challenging for some sectors, namely, tourism and hospitality we have the resilience to come through this and grasp the opportunities.

“For the Chamber’s part, we will continue to promote Sligo and the region as a first class location for quality jobs with an unmatchable lifestyle.

“Sligo Chamber is the leading business representative organisation in  the North West with over 300 member companies representing 7000 employees. in 2019 we expanded our operations and the Chamber team to facilitate our members needs through communications, regional/ national lobbying and providing substantial training programmes.

“We are active industry representatives on numerus boards and committees, local, regional and national including IT Sligo, Sligo Tourism, Sligo County Council and Strategic Policy groups.

“We are a strong forward-thinking collaborative organisation delivering for Sligo and the region. On our current board are Conor McCarty, President of Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland, Fiona Candon – Board member of Chambers Ireland and David Kiely Chair of the Atlantic Economic Corridor Infrastructure Group, to name but a few.

“Sligo Chamber is bringing a strong voice to bear on decisions made at national level. The March lockdown meant that across Sligo and the wider region, thousands of people were asked to work remotely in order to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“Whilst this presented challenges there were also opportunities.  Businesses have been forced to think creatively, diversify and avail of new technologies to survive and develop. Sligo has a rich cultural and creative heritage and offers the perfect location for entrepreneurs to relocate to/set up business in.

“We in Sligo Chamber  launched a new podcast series called ‘Life is Sligo’ with inspiring business figures such as EY Entrepreneur of the Year Richard Kennedy. Richard is MD of the global agri-tech company Devenish and is able to oversee running this company from Aclare in Sligo.

“Then we had Des Power. Des is Vice President and MD of FitBit International, leading their business operation for Europe, Asia , Africa, the Middle East and Australia again remotely from Strandhill.

“This has shown that Sligo and the region has the talent, technology and infrastructure to be the perfect choice for a career with an unrivalled lifestyle.

“During this pandemic, Sligo has come together as a community with collaboration between all the agencies and businesses. A powerful example of this was when Sligo Chamber reached out to businesses to seek assistance for Sligo University Hospital on PPE.

“The response was overwhelming and ensured our frontline workers were taken care of.

“As your Chamber we have lobbied to government on business supports. Only this week we raised the following concerns:

  1. The need for additional supports to help areas where restrictions must be reintroduced, to sustain businesses that are active in those areas, and then to support them upon reopening.
  2. It is critical that there is a co-ordinated, coherent and clear programme of policy and communications from government, the absence of which is undermining the viability of businesses and the sustainability of our local economy.
  3. There are failings in the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme which need to be addressed urgently.

Karl ended his address by thanking departing treasurer Shane Kelly, the Chamber’s Industry Group, the Chamber board, the full-time staff and, of course, the members.

“You are Sligo Chamber. We are here for you. Sligo Chamber will continue to support  our member companies through these unprecedented times to ensure that our local economy continues to recover and prosper.”

Sligo Chamber President Karl Kelly .