Chamber News

WGV Oct 2020Waterford’s retail and hospitality sectors could be in line for a €50 million COVID stimulus if Government make changes to the Benefit in Kind (BIK) scheme, according to a new economic study.

As a measure to protect retail and hospitality jobs in Waterford, Waterford Chamber is calling for a temporary increase from €500 to €2,000 for non-cash rewards under the Governments innovative Small Benefit Exemption Scheme for Tax Free vouchers and extending it to normal pay.

This change could see Waterford employees receive part of their gross pay in the form of Waterford Shop Local Gift Vouchers which are redeemable in Waterford’s shops, bars, restaurants and hotels.

A new study by economist Jim Power shows that with 1.3 million Irish workers using the scheme there would be an initial input of €2.6 billion into the retail and hospitality sectors with a multiplier effect of additional spending increasing this to €3.9 billion. If 16,500 workers in Waterford were to use the scheme it would provide a €50 million stimulus for the county’s retail and hospitality sector. 

Waterford Chamber believes this will offer a desperately needed boost for these sectors, with domestic demand forecast to decline 6.5% in 2020 and consumer spending on goods and services forecast to fall 7.7%. The hospitality sector has also seen the greatest decline in employment this year accounting for 30% (53,600 jobs) of jobs lost, with employment in the retail sector making up 5% (15,600 jobs) of jobs lost.

Using Waterford Shop Local Gift Vouchers ensures that this change to the BIK scheme will generate significant domestic economic activity in a short period of time, encouraging spending and helping to build consumer confidence at an uncertain time. With personal saving having increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, this scheme will encourage spending across the county for the hardest hit sectors of the economy.

Adapting the current BIK scheme will also deliver a tax saving for Waterford workers and businesses, with up to €615 saved per employee increasing the spending power of consumers. The state will benefit too with €390 million in additional VAT receipts from gift card and voucher spending in shops, bars, restaurants and hotels.

Speaking about the proposed changes to the BIK scheme, Gerald Hurley, CEO of Waterford Chamber said; “Waterford’s retail and hospitality sectors have been amongst the hardest hit since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with hundreds of jobs lost and many businesses facing closure. Stimulating these sectors is hugely important for the Waterford economy and we believe incentivising spending over saving through the BIK scheme is a cost-effective way for the Government to support our county’s businesses.

“This proposal to temporarily increase the BIK scheme limit for non-cash gifts from €500 to €2,000 and to extend it to normal gross pay will result in tax savings for employees and will encourage spending in local shops, bars, restaurants and hotels. This has the potential to deliver a €50 million stimulus for our local retail and hospitality sectors at a time when it is most needed.”

eWaterford

We appreciate how tough things are at the moment for many Waterford businesses and we want to help you.

During the first lockdown we supported the development of www.ewaterford.com, an online store where you can sell your products completely free. We have taken over the administration of that site and are developing Waterford’s online discount store. This is the perfect opportunity for you to sell your excess or sale stock and the great news is we’ll do everything for you and it won’t cost anything.

Whether you already have your own website or have none at all, it doesn’t matter. We put the buyer directly in touch with you to complete the sale, so there are no third party fees involved. Waterford Chamber are committed to marketing the site and encouraging online traffic and you can also get involved through your own social media channels.

Here are the steps:

  1. Let us know you want to be involved by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  2. We will contact you directly for information and images.
  3. We will create your online account and post your products.
  4. Start making money.

Your doors may be closed or footfall at a minimum but that shouldn’t stop you trading. Let us help you.

Following an online meeting of Chambers Ireland and CEOs from across the network earlier today (19th October 2020), Chamber leaders call on Government to ensure rapid delivery of supports for businesses impacted by this new wave of restrictions. Government must also ensure these restrictions serve their purpose in reducing spread of COVID-19. This time must be used wisely over the coming weeks to ensure the appropriate infrastructure is in place to support local economies to re-open safely and avoid succumbing to new closures into the new year.

Speaking this evening, Chambers Ireland Chief executive, Ian Talbot, said, “It is desperately sad and frustrating that we find ourselves shuttering our country again in the face of this rising wave of Covid-19 cases. Firstly, out thoughts are with those who are directly affected – those who are sick, those who are treating the afflicted, and those who are recovering their own health. And then there are the people who Covid-19 impacts indirectly – those whose medical treatments have been cancelled in the face of the demands that this surge is placing upon our healthcare system, those who are isolated because of social distancing measures, and those that are losing their livelihoods.

“Along with the direct impact on the health of the nation, it is our domestic economy that continues to bear the brunt of the economic impact of Covid-19. Today’s news of further restrictions will be devastating for many people. However, we must look forward. As we have been through the experience of restrictions before, we now know better what needs to be done.

Timeliness

“We know that early action limits the consequences of Covid-19. Delaying action only exacerbates the problems we encounter, which makes overcoming a greater challenge in the long run. Throughout this crisis Chambers Ireland has consistently argued that under-reaction, and delayed reaction, are greater threats to our security and our collective welfare than over-reaction. Supports for businesses must be implemented with even greater urgency than they were in the first wave

“If these supports are to be effective at maintaining employment they need to be of immediate benefit to the affected businesses. The time for mentoring and vouchers to be considered as solutions has passed. The Covid-19 Restriction Support Scheme must also be made available immediately, or we will see huge numbers, particularly from the retail sector, laid off in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Wage supports for employees and the self-employed will need to be increased if businesses are to be able to continue through the restriction period. Extensions to CRO and Revenue filing deadlines should also be considered.

Collaboration

“Decisions need to be made in collaboration with the affected parties and followed up with immediate action. Too often during this crisis, initial policy responses had to be reviewed and amended as problems with them became apparent. This has delayed their implementation and reduced their efficacy.

“Collaboration also needs to be improved with Northern Ireland and along the border counties to ensure that the policy response on both sides is measured. It is critical that divergent policy responses do not incentivise non-essential travel or commerce.

End Uncertainty

“Uncertainty is devastating for businesses owners and operators who are already reeling from the blows that the Covid-19 shocks have dealt their businesses, the drip-drip of leaked communications is undermining businesses, and confidence, at a national level. There needs to be clarity from government about the economic environment that businesses will be operating in once the restrictions are eased.

Exiting Restrictions

“Finally, a credible exit strategy needs to be developed by Government on how we are to avoid successive waves of opening and closing the economy. Chambers Ireland has warned that the worst-case scenario for the economy would be to enter a series of sawtooth lockdowns and re-openings due to the significant costs associated with reopening and restocking businesses. With limited capital reserves, and no appetite for new debt under such uncertainty, many businesses may not be able to reopen after this new round of closures.

“Therefore, beyond dealing with the immediate threat of growing Covid-19 numbers, Government must ensure that as we exit this second wave, sufficient dedicated resources will be made available to the public health authorities to create an effective track and trace programme that will have the capacity needed to conduct aggressive backwards tracing of new cases, coupled with local interventions to limit the impact of future outbreaks, and the development of capacity within the health service to cope with increased demands on our critical care services.

Compliance

“We must use our time wisely, we have not avoided a second wave, but we must do all that we can to avoid a third. For employers, this means interpreting the restrictions conservatively rather than looking for loopholes. If people can work from home, then that is the only place they should be working from. Employers must continue to do what they can to support their employees to work remotely.

“If we are to have any chance at salvaging the Christmas season for local economies across the country, we must act collectively, taking responsibility both for ourselves and our businesses. If compliance is not strong, if contacts are not minimised, these restrictions may not thaw until Spring.”

WC Skillnet Survey

We are actively seeking your input into the 2021 Waterford Skillnet Training plan, to help us better inform our delivery for public and in house training next year.

Our aim is to provide training in areas to support you, your staff and business.

Click here to Complete the Survey

Company Led and Industry Focused training for Business - driven by employers to upskill and cross Skill Staff. Up to 50% funded.*

Skills Connect - Employment focused re-skiling for Jobseerkers and those most impacted by Covid-19. This project is also open to employers who may be thinking of Out-skilling or who are recruiting jobseekers who require significant upskilling. 100% funded*

Future Skills - Supporting the development of Innovation in enterprise learning, playing an important role in maintaining a supply of the future skills essnential for the growth of Irish Enterprise. 80% funded*

Your business may apply for funding under one of the headings above. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for details.

The theme of the Chambers Ireland Budget submission is “Place” and through it we called on Government to support businesses to trade through the pandemic, by supporting liquidity, local economies and the long-term investment needs of the whole economy.

Budget 2021 is the largest Budget in the history of the state and makes significant progress in addressing many of the needs of the most exposed members of the business community.

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland CEO Ian Talbot said, “The context of this Budget is very different to anything we have ever seen. We have been very conscious that the response to the devastating economic impact of COVID-must be to continue investment, spending and support for the most vulnerable parts of the economy.

“Our way through this crisis must be to focus on the bigger picture and to give hope to businesses and local economies throughout the country. It means we must enable and empower our SMEs – the drivers of economic growth in communities across the country – to continue to compete and remain productive throughout the crisis. Most importantly, it means investing in the places where we live and work, so that town and city centres can thrive. In many respects Government has listened to this call. The increase in funding for housing and infrastructure and the creation of a €3.4 billion Fund that will address impacts of both Brexit and COVID-19 is extremely welcome and will go a long way to ensuring a sustainable, equitable recovery across the island.

“Our research highlights how badly businesses have suffered due to the pandemic where, on average, their revenue has faced a decline of approximately 30% and for businesses who have had to close, data shows they face on average €10,000 in re-opening costs. The commitment by Government to extend wage supports and provide funding for businesses who are forced to close is the right approach. We commend Government for heeding our call and developing these supports for the business community. The combination of the new reduced 9% VAT rate for the hospitality sector, extension of wages support scheme throughout next year as needed, and the introduction of the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme is an appropriate targeted response which will support businesses into 2021. 

“Local government and fully resourced local services have never been as important. The extension of Commercial rates waiver was key ask of our network and the additional funding of €300 million is welcome, as local authorities will need the funding that much of the business community will be unable to provide. 2021 will be a challenging year for businesses too however, and it is very possible a further extension will be required into the new year.

“In a Budget like we face this year, we appreciate the challenge facing Government in delivering on every ask of the business community. But there are missed opportunities in this Budget. Government should have done significantly more to invest in the affordability of childcare and to support entrepreneurs through reform of CGT and other entrepreneurial reliefs.

“They could also have been bolder in funding the recovery of urban centres - there is an opportunity for the National Economic Plan to improve on this, and we urge Government to use it.

“The goal of Government in this Budget was to give “hope and confidence”. For this hope and confidence to be delivered, there must be commitment as well, and a strategy to ensure that the places we live, and work are supported to recover.

“Living alongside the pandemic remains our immediate challenge, but a sustainable recovery, that reaches all parts of the country and puts place first, must be central to the National Economic Plan next month.

“Finally, while welcoming the commitments made, clear processes to deliver the funding allocated from Central Government to Local Government and businesses must be put in place as a priority.”

Waterford Gift Voucher Accepted HereChristmas is coming and while we may not be able to celebrate with colleagues in the traditional sense, Waterford Chamber are asking business owners to reward their staff by gifting them Waterford Shop Local Gift Vouchers in lieu of the traditional staff night out.  

“Employees have had to adapt to new challenges and in many cases work harder this year and where possible it should be rewarded, according to Danette Connolly, President of Waterford Chamber.

“Sadly it is looking like Christmas nights out will be null and void this year but that doesn’t mean you can’t reward your staff and do your bit for the local economy. All over the country, companies are choosing Shop Local Gift Vouchers as an alternative to a night out this year and we want our business community to do the same.

“The Waterford Shop Local Gift Vouchers can be redeemed in over 160 outlets across Waterford City and Tramore and are a great way to ensure the money is spent locally, unlike other vouchers. Whether it is weekly shopping, dining out, gifts or holidays, we’ve got it covered with our redemption partners.

“Now more than ever, we need to make every effort to boost our local economy. Businesses are in dire need of support and what a difference the vouchers will make once everything starts to reopen again.”

Not only that, but you can obtain up to €500 per employee tax free in the year, so you can potentially reward staff with a Christmas bonus and make a contribution as an alternative to a Christmas party and save money!

Send your order to Waterford Chamber and they will deliver it directly to your door in a matter of days.

The vouchers come in denominations of €10, €25 and €50 so any amount can be catered for.

This is your chance to make a difference this Christmas. Call Waterford Chamber now on 051 872639 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Waterford Shop Local Gift Vouchers are a joint initiative between Waterford Chamber, Waterford City & County Council and Waterford Business Group.

On a week that started with plenty of doom and gloom, Waterford Chamber managed to spread a little cheer with its three-day Toys4Engineers digital event.

Over the 72 hour period, four key elements were brought to life, a digital expo showcasing products and services from all over the country; three topic specific conferences, nearly 100 in-camera between indigenous and multi-national companies and a social media campaign to showcase the live roles currently available in Waterford.

Speaking after the event, Gerald Hurley, CEO Waterford Chamber said: “In light of Covid-19, the easiest thing would have been to cancel the event, but that was never an option for us. We always love a challenge and bringing Toys4Engineers online gave is the opportunity to think outside the box and be innovative in our approach. We knew our stakeholders were keen for the event to go ahead and we had the full backing of Waterford City & County Council, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Waterford Local Enterprise Office, WIT, Cobotics Skillnet and Crystal Valley Tech. Working in collaboration with them certainly made the whole experience easier and very worth while.

“Moving to a digital platform also allowed us to bring in speakers from all over the country to share their stories and the panel discussions were very well received. With thanks to Frontline Audiovisual, we live streamed our digital expo and conferences on www.toys4engineers.ie and on our Facebook page, while Crystal Valley Tech led the recruitment element across social media. The live steaming gave us the opportunity not just to showcase companies but also to show off Waterford as a fantastic location to live ad do business.

“In the background, Helloworld.ie worked with us to ensure nearly 100 business meetings went ahead on schedule as part of Meet the Buyer and of course none of this would have been possible without our event sponsor Waterford City & County Council and daily sponsors IDA Ireland, Waterford Local Enterprise Office, Enterprise Ireland and Cobotics Skillnet.

“It was certainly a learning curve for all of us, but one we thoroughly enjoyed and as much as we want to be back in WIT Arena next year for Toys4Engineers 2021, we are confident that our event offering will continue in Waterford Chamber through our digital platforms at the highest standard in the months ahead.”

This morning (5th October 2020) Chambers Ireland expresses concern at new advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team that the entire country should move to Level 5.

Speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “This latest announcement will come as a shock to businesses and local economies throughout the country, who have been doing their best to adjust to the new reality of living alongside the threat of Covid-19.

“Our members have many questions regarding the new advice. How has it arisen that only a few weeks after the publication of the “Living with COVID” strategy, we now find ourselves in a situation where we are jumping multiple levels overnight?

“The goal of the Roadmap, as we had understood it, was to give society as well as the business community, a clearer idea of how Government would respond to a rise, or indeed a decrease in cases. The message from NPHET, and the lack of communication from Government, is causing a significant amount of concern.

“We understand the challenges of managing Covid-19, and as a representative body, we aim to support Government in addressing this crisis. However, in the absence of clarity and data on the spread of the virus and the capacity of the system, we are unable to provide information to our members, and ensure that the required solidarity and compliance will be in place. Government must also improve the process of communication between NPHET, Cabinet, and the Covid-19 Oversight Committee, to ensure the public, especially the business community, is receiving clear information and guidance. 

“The current approach of regularly introducing new restrictions is not sustainable in the long-term. And so, Government must rapidly evolve its thinking in how it plans to supress the virus while living alongside it. The medical and scientific advice tells us that the best way to manage the latest outbreak is to effectively lock down most of society, flatten the curve and reduce the worst impacts of the virus by protecting people and saving lives. 

“Our question to Government is that if a new lockdown is necessary, what will follow? How will the strategy for living alongside the virus be altered so that we do not find ourselves in a new wave of restrictions and closures every time we ease measures?

“The State’s highest priority at present needs to be assigning sufficient resources to our hospital capacity and ensure that contact tracing and testing becomes effective at limiting the spread of this disease. It is only with better enforcement and intelligence that public health officials will be able to track the virus and stop it spreading. The alternative will be repeated local restrictions across the country, the costs of which will be devastating to the economy. We must endeavour to do all that we can to avoid such an outcome.

“The long-term impact of the repeated introduction of new restrictions cannot be under-stated, Businesses have been devastated over the past 6 months, with many now facing much reduced liquidity, and much higher debts.

“The reimposition of restrictions be they Level Three, Four or Five, must be accompanied with a targeted package of financial supports for the businesses and employees impacted. At this point, we have no clarity from Government what financial supports they intend to make available to businesses across the country to support them.

“This must be clarified urgently and must include wage supports, grants and other liquidity supports. Forbearance and flexibility from State agencies, banks and landlords must also continue to play a significant role in how we support the business community and our wider society. It is in nobody’s interest to see liquidations, business closures and increased vacancies in towns and cities throughout the country.

“We re-iterate our message that the risk of under-reacting is much greater than over-reacting. Government must use every available resource to tackle the spread of the virus and support local economies to withstand the impact. We call for information and clarity from coalition leaders immediately."

Waterford simply cannot go to Level 5 is the message this morning from Waterford Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley. Speaking following NPHET’s recommendation that the entire country moves to Level 5 for at least four weeks, Mr Hurley is calling on Government to consider regional infection rates.

“It is imperative that Government look at this in relation to case numbers. Yes Waterford spiked a couple of weeks ago, but we did our bit and our incidence rate is now at 35.3 per 100,000, while the national average is 108 cases per 100,000. We have shown the rest of the country it can be done, and we should not be penalised for the lack of effort of others.

“Waterford cannot afford to move to Level 5. Our economy has been tumultuous over the past number of years to say the very least. We have fought back and as a community we have worked together to bring about sustainability and growth. That is now in jeopardy. Our business community and the wider community has suffered enough and quite simply, we must remain at Level 2.

“We now need the Government to make an early announcement that Level 5 is not an option for the counties that have the virus under control. We do not want to have to take two steps back here in Waterford. Retailers and the wider business community have done everything asked of them since March. Looking at our numbers, we are the safest city in Ireland and we should not have to enforce further restrictions at this time.

“There is also the wider economic impact that needs grave consideration. The Government will have to provide the right supports for businesses if they are to survive this and make no mistake, many won’t make it.

“It is unfathomable how we can move from Level 2 straight to Level 5. What is the purpose of the step approach? Level 3 in Dublin cannot be enforced so how are they going to manage Level 5? There is a lot more transparency needed from Government right now. This is people’s lives they are dealing with and we deserve better.”

Following the publication of the Exchequer Returns for September, Chambers Ireland today (2nd October 2020) calls on Government to maintain supports for the badly impacted areas of our economy. Ensuring that we maintain supports will be essential if parts of the economy are to survive the pandemic. Budget 2021 must also minimise longer-term detrimental economic impact through prioritising funding for capital infrastructure and our town centres.

Speaking this evening, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive, Ian Talbot said, “The extent of the deficit is not a surprise, given the broad effects of the pandemic related restrictions on the economy, and the need for necessary additional spending on the health service.

“The figures highlight the widening gap between the Multinational sector and the real domestic economy. This emphasises the need for the state to take a counter-cyclical approach to the 2021 budget cycle.

“Many things are uncertain, but we know the economy has suffered a shock unlike anything in our lifetime and there is a growing concern that the long-term unemployment may permanently scar the careers of the younger generation.  Unlike past recessions this generation will not have the option of emigrating in search of work. This suggests that unemployment will decline slowly after Covid-19 and so Government needs to ensure its impact is minimised.

“Today’s Exchequer return figures emphasise the need for government to act boldly and accelerate expenditure on capital infrastructure to ensure that the economic disruption is minimised.

“Hugely important to this is the government prioritising, and appropriately funding, the Town Centre First strategy from its programme for government.”

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“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

 

 

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