Think big, Be brave, Be positive New Sligo Chamber President, Fiona Candon sets out her vision for Sligo for 2018

Chamber President Fiona CandonFollow through on last Friday’s announcement
Minister Eoghan Murphy referred last Friday to Project Ireland 2040 as a vehicle to empower choice. Just like any of you in business I really do want to have choices around sustainability and growth. I want my children to have a choice, a choice about where they work, how they work, where they go to college, where they set up a business. All of us want this.
My priorities for the year are in three areas
We will continue to work on ensuring that clear time bound regional targets across all programmes under the Project Ireland 2040 are agreed and funded properly particularly in the shorter term for infrastructure.
Road improvements from Sligo all the way to Dublin is a huge priority for us to push and I will be supporting our Chamber Industrial Group in every way I can particularly through my recent appointment to the Board of Chambers Ireland, the largest lobby group in the country, sitting now on Stephen’s Green, the heart of all key departmental decision making.
National programmes must have the flexibility to be adaptable to local needs. If we are to achieve real regional balance then our region and Sligo has to grow at a faster rate than others. So the announcements must become actions. They must happen much more quickly for us here than in other parts of the country, if we are to catch up.
While pushing for this we need to highlight the fact that while the costs of major infrastructural decisions are clear and immediate; the benefits are not.  Making a region more attractive to industry, providing a better quality of life for those who live here, less commuting, less people having to live in Dublin, more people sustaining services in our region and rural hinterlands, better regional hospitals and third level institutions are all benefits. These benefits cannot remain on the peripheral of decision making; they must be brought into the core.
Sligo Chamber drives and chairs The Industrial Group and includes IT Sligo, the Local Authority, BID and business representatives. The focus is connectivity, regionally and nationally. The work of this group is planned, organised and taken very seriously nationally and regionally. I want to acknowledge the work of David Kiely, Des Faul, Conor McCarthy and Fergal Burke on the Atlantic Economic Corridor a major feature now of Project Ireland 2040
Tourism Development and Sales
The percentage of total tourism numbers to the North West has not changed in 25 years. We have all the major assets, so what’s the problem?
Tourism is hugely affected by accessibility so pushing the infrastructure agenda is a must if we are to see real visitor numbers and in particular international visitors, who by the way spend twice as much as a domestic visitor.
Ireland West Airport Knock, a mere 40 minute drive from Sligo, is an asset that I want to really support in this role. Simple things like everyone one of us stating how close we are to this major international access point. The airport is closer to Sligo that to very Western parts of Mayo!  Ireland West Airport and the Wild Atlantic Way – two powerful assets that we have to really use.
The Chamber will continue to work with Sligo Tourism. Fáilte Ireland has agreed to partner with the Sligo Chamber of Commerce on a range of support initiatives locally to really help drive international business and we will be announcing those in the coming weeks.
Sligo Chamber welcomes the publication of the county’s new Tourism Strategy and the appointment of Neil Faulkner as Tourism Manager. We look forward to working further with you on a range of initiatives particularly via our Skillnet programme.
I want to highlight the huge achievements of Sligo Food Trail and all who support it. A network, collaborative food experiences, local buy in, PR, national and international attention have all been driven by a voluntary partnership between businesses and agencies and has been very successful in putting Sligo on the food and tourism map. We need more for Sligo Food Trails, we need to acknowledge their drive, the risks they took and their achievements, and we need more collaborations of this kind, this again the Chamber want to support.
Fingers crossed for County Sligo Golf Club, Local Authority, Sligo Tourism’s bid to host the Irish Open in 2019. The exposure will be huge on this.
Collaboration and Positivity
I really believe that we can achieve so much with vision, courage, bravery and determination.

  • Let’s all make Sligo the best county to start and grow an indigenous business
  • Let’s all make Sligo a desirable place for FDI, Abbott are to be congratulated on their €100m investment, their commitment to Sligo is something that we need to sell
  • Let’s all put Sligo on the map as the place where innovation and creativity come together – the Building Block, the Embankment, Westgate, An Chroi in Tubbercurry and many more that have been here and will grow further
  • Let’s make Sligo the best place to visit and experience the very best of hospitality
  • Let’s make Sligo that place that no matter who you talk to they pass the baton on to the next business or next experience and therefore spread the economic benefit
  • Let’s acknowledge the hard work of our businesses, the work of our Local Authority and our agencies who with very constrained budgets still have the vision and energy to push projects forward.

My vision for the year is think big, be brave, be positive no matter where I speak and have but have at the tip of my tongue everything that is so wonderful about this fantastic county. After a very, very long time we have achieved the status Sligo deserves. But now TOGETHER, we must ensure delivery.