Chamber News

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.”

Waterford figures supporting local

What do rugby international Niamh Briggs, Chef Paul Flynn and radio personalities Kieran O’Connor and Damien Tiernan have in common? They are all ambassadors for a new shop local campaign created by Waterford Chamber and Dungarvan & West Waterford Chamber.

These popular Waterford figures are passionate about the need to support local right now and into the future and are asking you to buy Shop Local gift vouchers to ensure your money is spent locally.

This is the first time Waterford Chamber and Dungarvan & West Waterford Chamber have come together to advertise Chamber Shop Local Gift Vouchers. Between both Chambers, these vouchers can be spent in over 250 local businesses.

This campaign is also running in conjunction with WLR FM who are consistent advocates for supporting local and it is also supported by Waterford Council.

Vouchers can be bought from both Chamber offices in Waterford City and Dungarvan or online at www.waterfordchamber.ie and www.dungarvanchamber.ie

Tune in to WLR FM during July and August to hear the popular figures asking you to choose Chamber Shop Local Gift Vouchers and there will also be some vouchers up for grabs. But above all, please remember to ‘Shop Waterford Support Local’.

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.”

Waterford Gift Voucher Thoughtful Gifting

Special occasions are important and more so now than ever. Through Waterford Chamber you can still show you care and support the local economy from the comfort of your own home.

The popular Waterford Chamber Shop Local Gift Vouchers, which can be used in over 160 local businesses, are the perfect gift – versatile, convenient and with something to suit everybody. When you choose to gift our vouchers, we can now offer special occasion cards, with your own message, handwritten and delivered by post. The quality Waterford themed cards are created locally and the Chamber team promises to use ‘their best writing’ on the card!

How it works: You can avail of this service by emailing your order to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and include the value of the voucher, the nature of the occasion, the message to include and your phone number so we can contact you to double check all is in order and to take payment.

This is a great way to safely mark special occasions with a thoughtful, practical gift that also supports local jobs and business.

There is a €5 charge for the card and domestic post.

Shop Local Gift Vouchers are particularly important now – it is essential that we support our local economy in these trying times if we want to protect our favourite businesses and safeguard jobs in our community. By keeping our money in our local businesses, we can each be part of the recovery.

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.”

In a disappointing, if expected non-development, Britain has casually avoided the opportunity of applying for an extension to the Brexit transition period.

Businesses throughout Europe, crippled by the Covid-19 crisis wreaking havoc on the Global economy, would have welcomed the opportunity to extend the transition period. An extension would have allowed an ambitious trade deal to be negotiated in a more conducive environment than current circumstances allow.

However, the process of reinforcing Britain’s departure from the EU last January continues its unrelenting journey to gratuitous deadlines, at the expense of negotiating a mutually beneficial, wide ranging future relationship.

The likeliest outcome from the negotiations is now a very hard Brexit and businesses and Governments must redouble their efforts to prepare for this eventuality.

Speaking on 30th June Chambers Ireland Chief Executive, Ian Talbot said, “Every business should plan for a Brexit which will be on World Trade Organisation rules. Should that occur, it will make trade with and through Britain increasingly difficult. Every business which trades, or uses products, components or services that are traded, is likely to be affected in some way.

“No one wants to be bearer of warnings to businesses of the challenges that Brexit will bring – even as they are still trying to reopen their doors and comply with the restrictions that Covid-19 requires – but neglecting the problems of Brexit could stifle the recovery of those businesses currently grappling with the Covid-19 crisis.

“Businesses will have to be realistic about how negotiations are likely to evolve from here. All the signs suggest that even if there is a trade deal completed between now and December it will be so limited in scope that for most businesses it may as well not exist.

“A hard Brexit is now a very likely outcome, businesses need to act accordingly.”

Chambers Ireland Suvey Report June 1Chambers Ireland and our nationwide network of Chambers has today (10th June 2020) published results from a survey of the Irish business community. This survey sought to quantify and highlight the impact of COVID-19 on businesses in our towns, cities and regions across the country.

The fourth in a series, the survey has 1,320 responses and was conducted between the 28th May and 2nd June 2020.

Our latest survey took a read of the business environment in Phase 1 of our economy’s re-opening following the COVID-19 restrictions.

The headline findings are:

  • Business activity levels are extremely low, for those businesses that have returned to operation under Phase 1
  • Businesses that have opened are typically experiencing less than half of their usual levels of business activity for this time of year
  • The median expected revenue over the next three months (relative to what they would have expected to be earning in a typical year) has risen from -60% to -50% over the next three months, so most businesses expect their earnings over the coming three months to be half the normal amount.
  • 25% of businesses expect to have earnings that are -70% of their usual level
  • The impact of revenue decline is being felt more strongly in the regions, notably in the West, Border counties and the South East
  • Smaller operators have seen revenue reduced most significantly, again compounding regional effects for areas which do not have large employers
  • Invoice arrears are increasing with the value of unpaid invoices (relative to 2019) significantly up across all sectors.
  • Almost two thirds of microenterprises and small businesses have experienced both an increase in the value owed to them and an increase in the proportion of debt that is owed to them that is now in excess of 90-days past due.

Speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “Our research clearly shows that the hard work of restarting our economy is only beginning.

“Even in the absence of further waves of COVID-19 there is an immense body of work to be done to restore economic normality. The State will continue to have a large part to play in this as, despite all that has been done, much more government action needs to occur. 

“What our research shows us this morning will not be surprising: small businesses have been the worst hit. Self-employed and sole traders have closed entirely, invoice arrears are increasing, contributing to growing debt levels – and all of these problems are amplified for small businesses.

“Under normal circumstances, we seek to make the business environment more competitive relative to other economies. During a health pandemic, the pursuit of economic competitiveness is now very different. Throughout the crisis, we have been guided by public health advice, and with this we have always been very conscious that the re-opening will be complex, and a risk of a second outbreak is very real.

“We have repeatedly cautioned that if re-opening is not done properly, we risk doing even more damage to the economy. It is for this reason that we need dramatic financial intervention to support SMEs while they continue trading and retain jobs.

“If jobs are to be saved, if businesses are to stay trading, we need to see certainty and clarity on the longer-term economic supports so that businesses can plan for their future. These supports need to address liquidity and cover overheads. Otherwise debt, which is mounting for many businesses, will sink them.

“At the outset of the crisis, we compared COVID-19 to a mini economic ice-age, and that the “un-freezing” of the economy would need far-reaching, ambitious measures to support businesses to re-open and recover. Now is the time for these interventions. At minimum, this will need to include a year-long waiver for impacted business from Commercial Rates, additional funding for Local Authorities, expanded grant aid, and a targeted extension of the Wage Subsidy Scheme for the greater part of the remainder of 2020.

“Our members are also very mindful of the fact that many of the new supports that will need to be put in place will require a new Government, or at the very least, an Oireachtas empowered to legislate. Certainty on policy, supported by legislation and followed by rapid financial intervention, cannot come soon enough.

“In the medium term, the next Programme for Government must urgently address the crisis facing local economies. This must include the financing of an ambitious package of support that invests billions, rather than millions, of euro. Otherwise we will see our cities and towns wither further.

“We also need to look beyond the direct supports to business and consider the bigger picture. Investment in infrastructure and housing must be the centrepiece of a new Programme for Government. Town centres will be at the heart of our economic recovery, if they are not - we are looking into a decade of stunted growth.

“If the pursuit of regional development, job creation and more sustainable local economies is to have any chance of success, there must be a realistically resourced commitment to its delivery.”

Priorities for a Programme for Government

  • Commitment to efficient delivery of key infrastructure projects from transport and housing to energy and water. Retaining the National Planning Framework and Climate Action Plan is critical to the productivity and sustainability of the Irish economy
  • National Taskforce for Town Centres, led by the Department of the Taoiseach
  • Urgent review of the existing third level funding structures so that a sustainable long-term funding model can be put in place that will address the current and capital funding needs of these institutions
  • Introduction of legislation to expand the powers of our cities and towns to address vacancies
  • Introduction of legislation that is needed to support the development of an offshore wind development

 

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