With membership more than doubling in the past five years, Shannon Chamber is very much on an upward trajectory and has established a very sound footing to introduce yet more new initiatives in 2016. That was the view expressed by the Chamber’s chief executive Helen Downes when reviewing the Chamber’s activities for 2015.
Now representing over 300 companies in the greater Shannon area, with a total employee number of 10,000, Shannon Chamber’s is very focused on its raison d’etre, which is to be an informed and action-orientated voice of the business community; a voice that informs itself of the issues that concern members, and subsequently engages with stakeholders who can provide solutions to those issues.
Citing particular examples of the Chamber’s voice in action, chief executive Helen Downes said: “We have successfully inputted to a number of recent government publications on behalf of members, most notably the new national aviation policy for Ireland and the Action Plan for Jobs Mid-West and were delighted to note than many of the recommendations we put forward were taken on board in both reports.
“Getting results for the region from undertakings of this nature makes our work very worthwhile. Following Minister Donohoe’s recent visit to Shannon, we have reverted on issues that further concern our members, particularly the high level of commercial rates for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) activities, which act as a barrier to expansions.
“With regard to rates generally, following consultation with members, we have made a submission to Clare County Council outlining members’ concerns and are now waiting to enter discussions with the Council as we believe the commercial rates system needs reviewing, nationally and locally.
At an operational level, Shannon Chamber has increased its headcount in 2016 and now, in addition to the CEO position, employs one full-time executive to run the newly launched Shannon Chamber Skillnet, an administrative assistant employed via the Community Employment (CE) programme, and outsourced personnel responsible for finance and public relations.
“We are ramping up for growth and positioning ourselves to take on new activities in 2016, most notably a four-month disability awareness programme, in association with Employability Clare, and a project in association with The Venue, Shannon, to leverage the creative sector in Shannon. This is a pilot project under the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA), Rural Economic Development Zones (REDZ) initiative.” added Ms Downes.
- 52 events were hosted in 2015:
- 24 business seminars, informational and instructional workshops, breakfast briefings, president’s lunches, the ever popular annual golf classic, and Budget 2016 briefing.
- 24 training events, including 7 run by the newly established Shannon Chamber Skillnet, with a further 22 Skillnet training programmes planned for the period January to August 2016.
- A new website shannonchamber.ie was launched in January 2015 to better project the spread of activities being undertaken by the Chamber, and in the region; to give a comprehensive listing of members and their operations; and to showcase the many positive developments emanating from Shannon and the wider region.
- The CEO and HR Forums, which enable senior executives from Chamber companies to collaborate on issues of concern to business, actively engaged during the year. The CEO Forum met with keynote speakers Martin Shanahan, CEO, IDA, and Minister Paschal Donohoe in advance of Chamber lunches –– and openly expressed their views on opportunities to improve the business operating environment.
- A number of key actions assigned to Shannon Chamber under the Mid-West region Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017, most notably: the delivery of an R&D seminar in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland, Intel Shannon, Modular Automation and Regecon Diagnostics to show SMEs the value of innovation and research; the hosting of a lean-focused workshop in Molex Shannon, in partnership with Enterprise Ireland, to demonstrate the value of lean in business and; the delivery of a ‘Doing Business in Britain’ seminar in conjunction with the British Irish Chamber of Commerce to assist SMEs with their export growth strategies. Almost 250 business executives and their companies will derive tangible benefits from attending these seminars.
- Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes retained her position on Chambers Ireland board, which gives the chamber a platform to represent members’ interests at a national level.
- An application to run a new Skillnet was successful. The new network, which was launched by the Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan T.D., is funded by member companies and the Training Networks Programme, an initiative of Skillnets, funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education. Shannon Chamber Skillnet has been set up in response to a demand from many long-established companies in Shannon for new areas of training and for a training network that would be member-driven. The new Skillnet will deliver 722 training days to 358 trainees, five per cent of which will be unemployed, by September 2016. Training will be cross-sectoral, demand-led and tailored to members’ specific needs, ensuring that member companies are equipped with leading-edge knowledge and techniques. Training programme content will enhance Shannon’s capability as a multi-sector centre of excellence and facilitate intra-company and intra-sectoral networking for collective gain.
- The Atlantic Economic Corridor, an initiative of the Chambers of Commerce of Limerick, Shannon, Ennis, Galway, Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo Chamber Alliance and the American Chamber of Commerce, continued its work to collectively scope initiatives to enhance economic development, enterprise, innovation, employment creation and regional development in the West of Ireland.
- A joint submission by Shannon Chamber and Shannon Group plc resulted in Shannon Free Zone, operated by Shannon Commercial Properties, landing major international recognition as a centre of excellence for foreign direct investment. Shannon Free Zone won the best Free Zone in Western Europe award in the “fDi Magazine Global Free Zones of the Year” awards. fDi Magazine, part of the Financial Times group, specialises in Foreign Direct Investment (fDi), investment promotion, and Free Zones.
- With over €13 million raised and 125,000 volunteer hours donated by shortlisted companies in Chambers Ireland’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) awards, Shannon Chamber is keen to encourage more Shannon based companies to enter these awards in 2016 to showcase their CSR undertakings. Shannon Airport’s Bank of Ireland Runway Night Run was shortlisted in the ‘Excellence in Community – Partnership with Charity – Large Indigenous Company (LIC)’ category in 2015.
- Anxious to play its part in keeping crime at a minimum in the Shannon area, Shannon Chamber relaunched its support for the Business Watch scheme by encouraging businesses to register to become a Business Watch member. Business Watch provides a framework whereby the business community can join together and be instrumental in preventing crime in their community. Through awareness and observation, businesses can become extra ‘eyes and ears’ of An Garda and act as ‘Watchmen’ to their own and neighbouring premises in the prevention of crime.
- 2015 was rounded off with the launch of a new Chamber magazine, iZone, in early December. The magazine, which will be published quarterly, provides a platform to portray the news and views of the Chamber, and its members.
Reflecting on a very successful year, Shannon Chamber’s chief executive paid tribute to the Chamber’s president, Kevin Thompstone, who, after filling the office for two years and giving his untiring support to strategy formulation and implementation, will be stepping down early in 2016 to hand over the mantles to a new president.
“The Chamber has benefited greatly from Kevin Thompstone’s vast business experience and expertise. He has shared insights from his work as an international economic development consultant which have greatly benefited the chamber’s undertakings. We are delighted that Kevin has agreed to remain on the board of directors.”
Shannon Chamber thanks its members, the business community at large, and the media, for their tremendous support during 2015 and looks forward to another productive year in 2016. With Clare’s positioning as the County of Culture for 2016 and Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann taking place in Ennis in August, the chamber will play its part in showcasing the benefits of visiting and investing in County Clare and the Mid-West region in general.