Chamber News

Chambers Ireland town centresIn a submission to An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Chambers Ireland today (30 July 2020) calls for the establishment of an inter-departmental National Town Centre Taskforce to revive urban centres, address the issues of vacancies, incentivise brownfield development and ensure that our cities and towns across the country are supported through the post-COVID recovery.

The Programme for Government committed to a ‘Town Centre First’ policy approach, founded on the Town Centre Health Check research, to ensure that our cities and towns become vibrant places for living and working in by removing the blight of underused and vacant urban building stock.

Even before Covid-19, a Town Centre First programme was critically important and urgently needed attention with Irish national commercial vacancy rates at 13.3% (GeoDirectory). Meanwhile, research from the Parliamentary Budgetary Office, published 28 July, demonstrates that at least 18,000 new homes would become available if vacant properties were activated.

In the wake of Covid-19, with the global economic downturn likely to gravely impact our economic performance, a well-resourced Town Centre First programme would serve as a platform for a counter-cyclical economic stimulus – supporting jobs while carrying out much needed public works at a cost-effective point in the economy cycle.

An impactful Town Centre First programme would position Ireland to be more competitive, with sustainable housing and resilient local economies and communities, and would allow us to take better advantage of the rebound to the global economy, which may be another three years away.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “As part of last week’s July Stimulus, €10 million was allocated for Town and Village renewal schemes. With 300,000 people living in over 600 small towns and villages this will not have a noticeable impact at the national level, and it neglects the urgent needs of over 3,000,000 people who are living in the urban areas of our cities and towns across every county.

“The Heritage Council’s town centre health checks have demonstrated that our urban spaces are among the least active in Europe. The economic burden of vacancy is felt very heavily in our towns and cities. The Covid-19 crisis is already making the vacancy problem in our town centres worse. Business owners are experiencing significantly reduced footfall and business activity.

“The Programme for Government makes a commitment to a ‘Town Centre First’ approach. If this objective is to be successful it will require the Taoiseach’s leadership and a cross departmental approach. Coordinating the policy activities of the departments of Planning, Housing, Enterprise, Transport and Finance with the actions of Local Authorities is too broad a brief for any one minister and will require the Taoiseach to lead the way if we are to make the necessary changes to change a system that has led to vacancy rates that are far higher than the EU average.

“More attractive urban spaces that support active transport can revive our high streets through supporting increased footfall which leads to higher levels of local spending. Beyond the immediate commercial concerns, making urban living viable will be key to creating sustainable communities that can succeed under the Climate Action Plan.

“There are billions of euros of works which Local Authorities have identified that need to be completed as part of the National Development Plan. Now is the time to make progress.”

In a submission to Department of Taoiseach, Chambers Ireland identified several issues which require intervention and has made recommendations on policies that should be adopted, some of which are noted below.

  • Create an Urban Living Initiative for urban spaces across the country, focusing on the development of healthy streets as in the London model.
  • What is now the Living City Initiative (LCI) should be expanded to include long term vacant commercial properties built post-1915 in the cities and towns specified in the NPF and reformed to include acquisition costs of LCI qualifying properties.
  • Introduce Section 28 planning guidelines that support prioritisation of town centre over greenfield sites.
  • Incentivise the upgrading of existing buildings as they are an essential part of conserving our carbon budget over the coming decades.
  • Empower local authorities and state bodies such as the Land Development Agency to actively manage, and masterplan, underutilised land with an effective compulsory purchase regime.
  • Reskill affected workers to make the upgrade and retrofitting of vacant properties economical.
  • Enact legislation that will empower and resource Local Authorities to establish one-stop shops to guide property owners through the planning process.
  • Streamline the planning and regulatory regime for change-of-use construction projects and above-the-shop conversions to expand the availability of housing.
  • Renew the Derelict Sites Act 1990 to strengthen its elements to incentivise infill and brownfield construction.
  • Better resource Local Authorities to initiate street improvement and active travel investments.
  • Ensure that our Local Area Plans require the people-friendly pedestrian infrastructure, segregated cycleways, and rest spots that are needed to support active transit while linking our residential areas with our civic and economic centres.

WIT main campus

Waterford Chamber has welcomed the appointment of Mr. Tom Boland, a former Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), as the new independent Programme Executive Director for the TUSEI consortium comprising the Carlow and Waterford Institutes of Technology.

Speaking on the announcement, Gerald Hurley, Waterford Chamber CEO said: “We are delighted to hear of the appointment of Mr Tom Boland. This is something we lobbied for at any opportunity, most notably to the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance when they visited our offices last year. We also acknowledge the Government’s commitment to ensuring the timely establishment of the Technological University and we certainly hope this new appointment will finally get this over the line.

“There has been far too long a delay on what is certain to be a game changer for Waterford. We can see the impact University status has had on other cities and Waterford is in need of such an injection.

“Mr Boland is certain to bring his experience to the table in getting the job done and Waterford Chamber gives every assurance that we will not be found wanting in our support when required.”

July Stimulus 2020Good but lot’s more to do is the line for Waterford Chamber in relation to the July Stimulus which was announced by Government on Thursday last.

The measures include:

  • Expansion of grant aid for business impacted by COVID-19
  • Extension and reform of the Wage Subsidy Scheme beyond August, to March next year
  • Extension of Commercial Rates Waiver
  • Stimulus measures to support sectors vulnerable to pandemic social-distancing, including retail, hospitality and tourism
  • Additional funding for active travel infrastructure

Speaking after the announcement, Gerald Hurley, CEO of Waterford Chamber said: “The July stimulus is a strong recognition of the gravity of the situation facing local economies and these measures will provide some breathing space for business until Budget 2021.

“However, I feel it didn’t go far enough as we must be cognisant of the ever increasing debtors lists that businesses are experiencing right now. We will certainly be in regular contact with the Government on behalf of our members as we lead up to the Budget and proposed National Economic Plan to ensure further supports are put in place.

“There are so many aspects for businesses to understand in the Stimulus and they need to understand the options available to them. We would encourage all businesses to avail of the opportunities and to help businesses, we will be hosting a number of webinars in the coming weeks to tease out all the details.

“Of course, the priority now must be to ensure that the schemes and funds announced are immediately available to business. There needs to be rapid implementation, clear communications, and equity in how these supports are administered around the country."

“We are also conscious that some of the announcements, particularly the Rates waiver, may fall short of what is needed. Our own data has shown us how deeply impacted businesses in local economies have been because of COVID-19. Many will struggle to pay Commercial rates and other bills this year, which will leave our local authority in a very vulnerable position at a time when we need them to be supporting and investing in local economies more than ever.

July Stimulus 2020Chambers Ireland welcomes this afternoon’s announcement (23rd July 2020) on the July Stimulus from Government. The measures include:

  • Expansion of grant aid for business impacted by COVID-19
  • Extension and reform of the Wage Subsidy Scheme beyond August, to March next year
  • Extension of Commercial Rates Waiver
  • Stimulus measures to support sectors vulnerable to pandemic social-distancing, including retail, hospitality and tourism
  • Additional funding for active travel infrastructure

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “Today’s announcements are a strong recognition of the gravity of the situation facing local economies and these measures will provide some breathing space for business until Budget 2021.

Ongoing commitments to a Wage Support Scheme, expanded grant aid and liquidity supports are welcome and have formed part of our own priority recommendation to Government in the past several weeks. The tax rebate for tourism will be also provide a welcome stimulus to the sector as it approaches the winter season.

The priority now must be to ensure that the schemes and funds announced are immediately available to business. There needs to be rapid implementation, clear communications, and equity in how these supports are administered around the country.

However, we are conscious that some of the announcements today, particularly the Rates waiver, may fall short of what is needed. Our own data has shown us how deeply impacted businesses in local economies have been because of COVID-19. Many will struggle to pay Commercial rates and other bills this year, which will leave Local Authorities in a very vulnerable position at a time when we need them to be supporting and investing in local economies more than ever. 

We had called for a rates waiver, or write- off, for impacted businesses to be put in place for up to 12 months, with Local Authorities instead being funded by central Government. While the extension to the end of September is a welcome one, more may be required.

There is now a need to move towards a more strategic approach from Government – the first six months of the COVID-19 crisis have, of necessity, been characterised by reactive measures that have changed on a monthly, and sometimes, fortnightly basis. The actions taken so far have been commendable.

While understandably the initial State response was predicated on the COVID-19 crisis being a short, sharp shock, that is no longer a tenable position. Businesses that are trying to trade through these circumstances must consider timelines that cover 6-month, 12-month, and 18-month periods. If government activity is to be effective, it will have to provide the private sector with guidance that extends across such timespans.

COVID-19 has had an impact on the global economy akin to a world war, and like a war, unfortunately, its effects will be of indefinite duration. Added to this, in 5 months-time we are likely to be dealing with a no-deal Brexit that will do further damage to our trading and domestic economy.

Chambers Ireland welcomes the Cabinet’s action on the immediate crisis and we now call on the Government to take a wider view on what the trading and business landscape is likely to look like over the next two to five years. Such a long-term strategy will need to address how we retrain our people, create jobs, invest in infrastructure, and provide housing. 

The upcoming Budget and proposed National Economic Plan will be the next opportunity to do this and we look forward to engaging with Government in the lead up to this.”

In advance of the announcement of the July Stimulus, which is expected next week, Waterford Chamber is calling on Government to give every support to vulnerable businesses to ensure their chance of survival.

Working with Chambers Ireland, Waterford Chamber engaged with their members on national business surveys and Waterford had the largest response per capita.

According to Gerald Hurley, the recommendations sent to Government this week were very much a representation of the business community in Waterford.

“At this stage it is necessary to protect jobs, prevent businesses from failing, and support the recovery. Representing 40 Chambers, more than 8,000 businesses and with a geographic reach in all major cities, regions and towns, Chambers Ireland calls for Cabinet to use all resources available to reboot the economy.

“Our members have been extremely vocal in the need for supports to continue if they have any chance of sustainability or growth. The measures introduced to date to support businesses to re-open have played a positive part in reducing some of the economic damage. In particular, the introduction of the TWSS has been extremely successful in protecting jobs and incomes, while businesses trade through the pandemic. However, it will be critical that supports like this are continued for vulnerable sectors.

“Our series of surveys and research over the course of lockdown and the early stages of re-opening, show us how deeply COVID-19 has impacted our local economy. Revenue of most businesses is about half of what it usually would be at this time of year. 
The actions Government takes in the coming weeks will determine how many jobs we save and how many businesses will survive the coming months.”

Ahead of the July Stimulus, Chambers Ireland calls on Government to take several far-reaching actions, including the following:

  1. The extension and reform of the Wage Subsidy Scheme for vulnerable sectors. This reform must include allowing vulnerable sectors, many of whom are seasonal, to hire new staff under the Wage Subsidy Scheme.
  2. A 12-month waiver of commercial Rates for impacted businesses, with an accessible mechanism, and commitment to ensure that Local Authorities receive additional central funding to make up for the short-fall.
  3. A new expansive model for grant aid so businesses can tackle the mounting costs of debt and outstanding invoices. The introduction of the “Restart Grant” was a welcome first step in supporting business to re-open, but ultimately did not go far enough. Without a significant intervention from the State, the debt burden will become insurmountable for many, with closures and job losses inevitably following.

“Our asks are not new. These are issues which have been visible since the early days of the crisis and we have consistently called for Government to intervene. Now that we have a new Government, with a new mandate, an expansive, ambitious program of supports must be introduced.

“If Government does not continue to intervene in a meaningful way, with a package totalling billions of euro, then it is quite probable that huge numbers of jobs and job creators will be lost to the economy. If the State intervenes, we have a much better chance of protecting local economies all over the country, not just in Waterford. Without such an intervention, the economic outlook is bleak.”

Chambers Ireland today (15th July 2020) publishes its recommendations to Government on the measures that will be necessary to protect jobs, prevent businesses from failing, and support the recovery.

Representing 40 Chambers, more than 8,000 businesses and with a geographic reach in all major cities, regions and towns, Chambers Ireland calls for Cabinet to use all resources available to reboot the economy.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “Measures introduced to date to support businesses to re-open have played a positive part in reducing some of the economic damage. In particular, the introduction of the TWSS has been extremely successful in protecting jobs and incomes, while businesses trade through the pandemic. However, it will be critical that supports like this are continued for vulnerable sectors.

“The “re-opening” of the economy is a tremendously tricky task. The first Phase of lockdown ultimately involved freezing all social and economic activity. The current phase, unfortunately, is not a return to normal trading conditions, but instead is a balancing act, where we both try to live and do business around the virus, while ensuring we do everything to avoid a second wave.

“Because of this, the possibility that COVID-19 will result in a shallow recession with a V shaped recovery, is unrealistic. Instead, this crisis will likely affect us over a period of years rather than months.

“Our series of surveys and research over the course of lockdown and the early stages of re-opening, show us how deeply COVID-19 has impacted local economies. Revenue of most businesses is about half of what it usually would be at this time of year.

“The actions Government takes in the coming weeks will determine how many jobs we save and how many businesses will survive the coming months.”

Ahead of the July Stimulus, Chambers Ireland calls on Government to take several far-reaching actions, including the following:

  1. The extension and reform of the Wage Subsidy Scheme for vulnerable sectors. This reform must include allowing vulnerable sectors, many of whom are seasonal, to hire new staff under the Wage Subsidy Scheme.
  2. A 12-month waiver of commercial Rates for impacted businesses, with an accessible mechanism, and commitment to ensure that Local Authorities receive additional central funding to make up for the short-fall.
  3. A new expansive model for grant aid so businesses can tackle the mounting costs of debt and outstanding invoices. The introduction of the “Restart Grant” was a welcome first step in supporting business to re-open, but ultimately did not go far enough. Without a significant intervention from the State, the debt burden will become insurmountable for many, with closures and job losses inevitably following.

“Our asks are not new. These are issues which have been visible since the early days of the crisis and we have consistently called for Government to intervene. Now that we have a new Government, with a new mandate, an expansive, ambitious program of supports must be introduced.

In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, most economic activity was required to halt, which caused what we referred to as a mini-ice age. This decision, although the right one, has an economic cost.

If Government does not continue to intervene in a meaningful way, with a package totalling billions of euro, then it is quite probable that huge numbers of jobs and job creators will be lost to the economy. If the State intervenes, we have a much better chance of protecting local economies all over the country. Without such an intervention, the economic outlook is bleak.”

North Quays Mall Entrance

Waterford Chamber has welcomed the announcement by Waterford Council that they have granted planning for the North Quays development.

According to Gerald Hurley, CEO Waterford Chamber, “This is a very large piece of the jigsaw and it is an important milestone in progressing the development.

“We are all aware that a vibrant city centre is key is economic growth and the development of our city and the North Quays will be an integral part of that. It will ensure modern riverside accommodation and Grade A office space catering for cutting edge businesses, which will all contribute significantly to attracting our young professionals back to Waterford.

“With a catchment of over 604,000 people within a one hour drive time, the North Quays will be a catalyst for urban regeneration within the region and this is very much in line with the new programme for Government.

“Job creation has to be at the core of everything when we talk of economic development and the North Quays will create substantial job opportunities in the coming years.

“This development will be a game changer for Waterford and the region and we now need Government to deliver on their promise and release the remainder of the funding to the infrastructural needs can be met at the earliest opportunity. We will continue to make representation in this regard, but for the time being, we would like to thank Falcon Malls Real Estate, Waterford Council, Fewer Harrington & Partners and all other stakeholders for their commitment to this important project.”

Webinar Branding

During this insightful webinar, Colin Byrne, Creative Managing Director of TOTEM Meaningful Branding will guide you on how to identify what you can offer and what your competitors cannot, understand your brand’s essence and identify your USP and learn how to emotionally connect with your audience through the right branding. 

Colin will guide you through the key branding tools they use in their branding workshops, followed by an interactive Q&A to answer any branding queries or issues you may have. 

Following this webinar, you will be able to apply these tools to your business and start preparing your brand for the future. 

You will have a greater understanding on how to:

  • Truly understand your customer and what they need.
  • Identify what you can offer and what your competitors cannot.
  • Help your brand connect emotionally with your audience.
  • Identify your brand’s purpose – what’s your why? 
  • Understand your brand’s essence and identify your USP

Date: Friday, 17th July

Time: 12.45pm

This is a free event but you must register in advance. To do so please go to: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_FTdXSrO1TdWPWgQb8gDyRQ

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

ABOUT TOTEM

TOTEM is an award winning creative branding agency based in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. The team partner with organisations across a broad spectrum of sectors and work with clients such as Cork Airport, Cork Chamber of Commerce, Fáilte Ireland, Trigon Hotels, EirGen, Trocaire and more. For more information visit www.totem.ie

Waterford Gift Voucher Accepted HereThe Waterford Shop Local Gift Voucher figures have already exceeded last years with close to €120,000 having been put into the business community in recent months.

While this is very encouraging, says Gerald Hurley, CEO Waterford Chamber, there is still a long way to go.

“It is heartening to see the business community step up and make a conscious effort to support the shop local campaign and we have seen an increase in the number of companies looking to support the Waterford Shop Local Gift Voucher initiative. Many are using the vouchers to reward their staff for their hard work over the past few months and this is to be commended.

“Last year we processed €96,000 worth of Shop Local Gift Vouchers and the first six months of this year has exceeded that which is very positive. However, this pales into insignificance when you look at areas like Dungarvan, Dundalk and Letterkenny, towns who are securing anywhere from €600,000 to over €2,000,000 per annum.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of supporting the initiative. We appreciate that some companies have a tradition of purchasing other vouchers, but we would ask them to give serious consideration to the Waterford Shop Local Gift Vouchers for one simple reason – you can be guaranteed the money will be spent locally.

“Out of the 28,000 working population in the Waterford Urban Area, 15,000 reside in Waterford. By choosing to give up to €500 in Waterford Shop Local Gift Vouchers to your employees, you are guaranteeing €6.5 million into the local economy by the non-Waterford residents alone and that’s not to mention the local spend. We must pull together now more than ever and make a collective effort to make a difference.

“We have over 160 participating businesses who will benefit and there is plenty of choice, whether you want to do the weekly shopping, go out for a meal, book a holiday, get some retail therapy or treat yourself to a health and beauty experience.

“In light of Covid-19 and the difficulty businesses have faced, there is no excuse for the business community and general public not to make every effort in supporting local. If you are looking for a gift for a wedding, an anniversary, a new baby, a birthday or a simple thank you, why not consider giving the gift of choice.

“Waterford Council, along with ourselves, Dungarvan and West Waterford Chamber and Waterford Business Group, have recently launched a Shop Waterford, Support Local campaign and the Gift Vouchers are just one part of that.

“We need to be conscious of jobs, of economic growth and of supporting our business community whenever we can. Buying a Waterford Gift Voucher online at www.waterfordchamber.ie or www.ewaterford.com or through the Book Centre, is one small step that will make a huge difference.”

Page 1 of 15

 

What We Do For Our Members

 

networking

 

 

business services

 

 

events

 

 

promotion

 

 

graph

 

 

influence

 

 

 

What Our Members Say

“Tom Murphy Car Sales Ltd has been a member of Waterford Chamber of Commerce for over 25 years. It’s a membership that serves us well as we find it gives us a platform to interact with similar businesses and puts us in front of a wide audience. Having staged a number of very successful Chamber events, both at our dealership on the Cork Road and at venues chosen by the Chamber, it really puts into perspective the value of networking and meeting with potential customers face to face. We intend to continue the partnership between Waterford Chamber of Commerce and Tom Murphy Car Sales into the future, as the results speak for themselves and we see the value in being a member of Waterford Chamber.”

Tom Murphy, Tom Murphy Car Sales

 

 

We Can Help!

Call us to find out how Waterford Chamber can help you with your business and training needs today.

 

 

 

 

 contact us button