An update on what we’ve been working on…

I’ve been the President of the Chamber now for some months, I’m really enjoying the role but it is busy! So I wanted to take this chance to update you on some of the things that have been going on… apologies for not updating you sooner, but as I say, it’s been a busy few months!

We have launched a new newsletter for members. The new glossy publications is designed to let you know exactly what work we are doing on behalf of you, the business community. Click here to read it.

I’ve met the new Limerick ‘super manager’ Conn Murray and am very optimistic about his vision and ability to deliver change for us. Coupled with the news that Tom Enright has now been appointed the Director of Economic Development, I’m feeling confident that reform and revitalisation will occur.

We have a number of committee structures in existence in the Chamber, drawing on the experience and expertise that is on the board as well as our members. We are looking at how we can contribute in a positive way to the on-going process of renewal of the city and reform of local government as well as exploring enterprise and job creation initiatives that we can lead and drive to deliver jobs & growth for the region.

We are hosting an exciting International Trade & Embassy Conference next Thursday (4th) at the Irish Innovation Showcase. This is a unique opportunity for businesses in the region to discover potential new markets, customers and suppliers. We have 17 embassies exhibiting and willing to help your business expand into their country! We are also offering the opportunity for our members to pre-book one-on-one sessions with the representatives on the day (for more info feel free to contact Jorrit Andringa at the Chamber on jandringa@limerickchamber.ie or 061 217601).

Changes at Shannon Airport are on-going. Much work is being done behind the scenes to ensure that we have an airport that delivers route and passenger growth for the region… as soon as I have something concrete to report on this I’ll be back to you. But be assured, we’re working on it.

As always our Skillnet programme is delivering a full schedule of subsidised training for businesses. Other upcoming events include a Top Ten Sales Tips lunchtime workshop next Tuesday.

Finally my Presidents Dinner, which incorporates the Mid West Region Business Awards is fast approaching. The deadline date for application is next week! So quick, get your form into the Chamber. If you’re not in you can’t win!

Shannon Airport

Limerick Chamber has welcomed the Government’s recent decision on the future of Shannon Airport and Minister Varadkar’s clarification that the new Airport entity will be debt free.

This decision underlines the important role Shannon Airport has as a state-owned and national strategic asset and provides the ability for Shannon Airport to develop as an independent entity, separate from Dublin Airport. We have stressed to the Minister that this is only a first step in a process that needs to be completed this year.

We have consistently lobbied for this change to come about and to ensure that Shannon Airport would become an independent but state owned airport with a strong commercial focus that would allow it to develop to its full potential for passenger, cargo, aircraft maintenance and aviation services.

Following Limerick Chamber’s Breakfast Briefing with Minister Varadkar at the end of January this year, we have been focused on ensuring that the views of the business community in Limerick and the Mid West are taken on board by Government and we believe that the series of meetings and submissions made by the Chamber have had a positive impact on this decision.

This is only a first step and Limerick Chamber will continue to lobby for the finalisation of Terms of Reference for the Steering Group which are commercially focused and see the immediate establishment of this Group with strong leadership and appropriate expertise. We are also concerned that this focus on the long term model for the Airport, whilst welcome, may result in the immediate challenge of route development and the retention and growth of passenger numbers not being addressed and we will continue to lobby for this to be focused on as a matter of urgency.

The business community in Limerick and the Mid West needs a strong, viable Shannon Airport and it remains a priority of Limerick Chamber to see this fully implemented as quickly as possible and we will continue to work hard on behalf of you, our members, to see this come about.

Yours sincerely

Gordon Kearney

President

Our Challenges are superceded by our Optimism and Conviction to succeed

As my term of office as President of Limerick Chamber comes to an end, I would like to extend my personal thanks to all those who have listened, commented and supported our efforts to raise the bar of our expectations for Limerick, to lead the debate, to help influence political, business and wider stakeholder support in favour of what Limerick deserves and not to be afraid to be the warrior in the arena as against on the sidelines. There is a lot happening in Limerick at the moment and Limerick Chamber is proud to have played it’s part in shaping it’s future.

At the Limerick Chamber AGM last night, I outlined the Chamber activities over the past 12 months. The biggest success I believe has been the increased sense of pride and confidence both within the Chamber board and executive as well as within the broader business community in the opportunity that Limerick is now presented with. The following is a press release issued today on my behalf reflecting the challenges we have but more importantly the opportunity we face and the optimism I personally have in the future of Limerick.

Reform required if Limerick  economy is to avoid going beyond point of no return

Forward thinking and some radical reform will be crucial if Limerick and the Mid-West region are to avoid being left behind economically, the outgoing President of Limerick Chamber stated at its Annual General Meeting on Tuesday night.

In his final address at the end of a dynamic two-year tenure as President, Kieran MacSweeney said, however, that he remains optimistic that a new era will dawn for Limerick but that, in addition to this reform, a master-plan is required and needs to be driven by a new single authority for the city.

“I still believe that Limerick has significant challenges to overcome. Limerick City is, regrettably, still a commercial black-spot today and is challenged economically. Some would say it is at a tipping point and we must not allow challenges we now face to tip us beyond the point of no return.

“I am, however, most definitely optimistic because the need is so great and the political will and impetus, as evidenced on recent initiatives and pronouncements on the local government issue, on the Opera Centre and on Regeneration, is there.

“But Limerick needs a fresh, creative and vibrant master plan to bring all this and more together. That master plan must capture and seek to maximise our strengths, in areas such as heritage, arts and culture; in our sporting success, on and off the field; in education; in industries such as technology, agriculture/agri food and medical devices.

“We need to set ourselves, in that master plan, a target of becoming THE location of choice to live, to work and socialize in on this side of the island – a location that can become a beacon for foreign direct investment both in the city centre and in its suburbs.

“To make this happen, we need the courage, foresight and conviction; to put the best interests of the city ahead of the selfish protection of the status quo. This will include some radical reform, even of institutions that were real drivers in another era but that, although well-intentioned, are past their sell-by date today and not necessarily giving Limerick and the Mid-West region the competitive edge it needs and deserves in these most challenging of times.”

Mr MacSweeney said that responsibility for the master-plan should be tasked to a single economic and enterprise development function within the new single authority and would include holding the national agencies of IDA and Enterprise Ireland accountable for specific job creation targets for Limerick City.

The outgoing President said that job creation and enterprise support has remained the number one priority for the Chamber over the past year as evidenced by the creation of the National Franchise Centre which has already been responsible for the creation of 15 businesses and 20 jobs. A second cohort of 23 participants are developing their business plans to launch new businesses later this year.

Local Government Reform, he continued, has been a key focus for the Chamber whose decision to take the lead on this subject has been a key factor in the Government’s decision to adopt the recommendations of the Brosnan report and appoint Denis Brosnan to oversee the implementation of the new single authority for Limerick City and county.

The Chamber, he said, has consistently been a strong voice for rates reduction in the City but regretted the level of reduction this year. “We were the first to look for a 25% reduction. This level of reduction is now accepted as the level necessary for the city to be competitive. We are disappointed with this year’s rate reduction for the city but we take some heart from our recent meeting with Minister Phil Hogan and his commitment to reduce the rates in line with the current county rates.”

Mr MacSweeney said that other highlights of the past 12 months included the establishment of a City Centre Policing Committee, led by the chamber and partnering with the traders and Gardai, and the continued growth of the Limerick Chamber managed Milk Market, which had a conservatively estimated 500,000 plus visitors.

Mr MacSweeney will be succeeded as President of Limerick Chamber by Gordon Kearney. Gordon’s father Pat was President in 1998.  Head of Development at Limerick Institute of Technology Mr Fergal Barr is the Chamber’s incoming Vice President.

ends

4 New Directors to the Limerick Chamber Board

This year we had an unprecedented number of nominees going forward to be directors of Limerick Chamber. And we also had an unprecedented number of votes cast by members representing over 60% of those eligible to vote. At our AGM last night, we announced the following 4 new Directors to the Board of Limerick Chamber (in alphabetical order):

Catherine Duffy, Northern Trust

Padraic Frawley, The Frawley Group (Cornstore)

Patrick O’Sullivan, Healthwise Medical and Dental Clinic

Cathal Treacy, Deloitte & Touche

On behalf of the board, I extend my congratulations to them and our sincere thanks to  the 4 outgoing directors Tadhg Kearney, Richard Rice, Derry McCarthy and Eoghan Prendergast for their commitment and contribution made during their term in office.

Time for a new sustainable economic model for Limerick and the region

In recent weeks,  Limerick Chamber has hosted events involving Ministers Hogan, Noonan, O’Sullivan, Deenihan and Varadkar and individually and collectively, they all re-inforced their commitment to Limerick’s revitalisation through integrating the city and county local authortities and the regeneration agencies into one authority, the appointment of Master Planners to develop a master plan for Limerick City, the appointment of a manager in charge of the new single authority by mid-year, a decision to separate Shannon Airport from the DAA and to appoint an interim board by Easter who will be tasked with coming up with a business plan which will be commercially viable. Limerick has the positive focus of cabinet at the moment.  It is time for us all to embrace it and convert it into a sustainable new economic success story for Limerick and the region.

Letter to the Editor, Limerick Leader, regarding the Opera Centre

The purchase of the Opera Centre site creates an exciting opportunity for the city and the region to create a visionary Master Plan.  This will allow all possible stakeholders to contribute – from our new unitary local authority and the regeneration agencies to IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Limerick Institute of Technology, University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate, Fáilte Ireland, Shannon Development, the Mid-West Regional Authority as well as ourselves in Limerick Chamber and many other business interests. Anything that is done with this site must be integrated into an overall vision and master plan for the city and the Limerick region and provide an eclectic mix made up of retail, commercial, office, residential, arts, sports and culture. We believe that the traditional view of retail being the only answer is not correct. We believe that retail, although it has a significant part to play, is not the only solution. We strongly believe that any development at this site must also complement and work with what is already in existence, not threaten future viability and this also applies to the out-of-town shopping centres soon to be an integral part of the extended Limerick city once the integration of the local authorities is completed. It must be a game changing unique and visionary development. An iconic symbol for a unified City and County working together for the betterment of the Limerick Region and Ireland’s third city with a population in excess of 100,000.

The Opera Centre together with the other vacant commercial buildings in the city have the potential to being the catalyst in revitalising Limerick and the region if it is used to drive a dynamic Master Plan to make Limerick City and the Limerick region a location of choice for Foreign Direct Investment, for tourism, for education, for shopping, for culture, for sports. This will involve creativity and courageous choices by the many organisations who have the resources and/or the power to contribute to creating a viable, sustainable and commercially successful Master Plan for Limerick.  We need them all to incorporate what is best for Limerick City in their strategic thinking  and in their own plans.

The list of potential developments that could be housed at this site is endless. The following is a list of 9 possible iconic initiatives for Limerick City which would drive further growth, employment and economic activity as well as complementing each other and which the Opera Centre could be used as the catalyst for:

  • Develop a financial services employment hub for the City Centre. The footfall that this would create would have a multiplier effect on all other service demands across the city. The Chamber believe there is huge merit and opportunity for Limerick City Centre to become a national centre of excellence for tier 2 or Back office/Shared services for the IFSC (International Financial services Centre). This is one of the fastest growing employment sectors at the moment – the government aim to create 10,000 new jobs in the next 5 years. Can you imagine what 20% of those jobs would do, i.e. 2,000 jobs, if they were based in the heart of Limerick City centre It could totally transform our city centre and would complement the graduates coming from our institutes of education from the Business Schools in both LIT and UL. Limerick could twin with Dublin in bidding for IFSC opportunities with Dublin securing the HQ, Sales and Marketing and Limerick being the designated location of choice for the back-office/shared services activities.
  • Develop an international accredited medical village/campus around the successful Barringtons Hospital. I can recall 3 attempts  at building a private hospital in this region and all failed.   However Barringtons Hospital has successfully evolved from a clinic when it was opened in 1994 to employing 100 persons directly at present, including 40 consultants.  I understand there are ambitious expansion plans and a vision for the future to create a “Medical Village”, building substantial links with the Medical School at UL .  Could the Opera Centre be the catalyst to support the development of this vision?
  • Obtain national designation for Limerick to be the Irish capital of Arts, Sports and Culture   in the same way as Glasgow was designated and restored as the centre for Art in all the UK. With LIT’s internationally acclaimed School of Art and Design, UL’s World Academy of Music, Limerick’s rich Georgian  heritage and our successes in Sport, we need to work together to seek to obtain government status for Limerick as the Irish Capital for Art, Sports  and Culture. The designation would not only bring young people and life back to the centre, it would also generate increased tourist numbers.
  • Develop  a cluster of sporting enterprises on the back of Limerick’s  European City of Sport designation and it’s proud success in all sporting codes. Limerick has internationally recognised sporting facilities across all codes. Just as Cardiff capitalised and built on their City of Sport title with their International Sports Village, the opportunity exists for Limerick to become an internationally recognised centre for sporting excellence. The potential for Limerick to be recognised as an International Sports Services Centre, hosting R&D and administration clusters for sports companies is real and this centre for excellence could be housed in the Opera Centre or the Opera Centre could be used as a catalyst to support this plan.
  • Develop  a recreational focal point. The site at the Opera Centre could house Cinemas/ Theatre/ Opera House/ Library/ Museum and become not just a day-time attraction but a reason for people to congregate and come to the city at night-time.
  • Expand   the retail offering that will complement existing retailers. A current difficulty in attracting large multi-nationals retailers can be that there is limited large footprints currently available in the city. This site/ development could be tailor designed to suit some of these large retailers and we should still look to attracting a “big ticket” international retail anchor to the city centre.
  • Develop a unique retail shopping experience for Limerick if the city centre retailing was focused on a high number of quality niche retailers complemented with the creation of start-up businesses from a newly created enterprise and incubation centre from the Limerick School of Art and Design?  These would be focused on new businesses in the fashion, design and creative arts areas thus contributing to a unique “Creative Culture” and shopping experience unique to Ireland.
  • Perhaps the space could be used as an office design that could incorporate a new Unitary Limerick Authority Hall. In a true joined-up thinking fashion, if our enterprise agencies successfully identified suitable alternative foreign direct investment or indigenous companies to move into the existing city and county authority buildings, thus making the development of a new building to house the unified authority cost neutral.
  • Invite LIT and UL to locate a significant portion of their combined student population  of 20,000 in the city centre.  Limerick is a university city, with a student population in excess of 20,000. LIT’s School of Art and Design with its 700+ students as well as Mary Immaculate College and it’s 3,000 students currently reside within the City Centre. However the city centre does not reflect the full scale of our student population and the opportunity exists to bring more educational facilities into the city centre.

Limerick Chamber   believes that whatever is developed at the site, it must be a catalyst for economic and social re-growth and revitalisation not just in the city but for the entire region; leading the region as an iconic visionary development into the future. A mixed-use development which will provide an initial injection of life back into the city and/or act as a catalyst for supporting Limerick’s attractiveness as a location of choice for foreign direct investment as well as national designation in Arts, Sports and Culture, but one that will be of long-term benefit and that will stand the test of time. Whatever happens on this site, it must be part of a larger integrated master plan for the city and the region, reiterating and re-creating it as a focal point leading regional economic growth and employment for current and future generations.

Sp€nd Christmas in Limerick

Working with Limerick City Council, Failte Ireland, the LCBA, Shannon Development – and co-ordinated fantastically by Laura Ryan at the Communications Office a joined-up national marketing campaign to promote Limerick this Christmas has been launched. A fantastic brochure highlighting the amazing reasons to come to Limerick and listing the great things that are happening here are all in the glossy. It looks brilliant and is well worth checking out! Coupled with the various parking initiatives that are taking place (traders are offering coupons towards multi-storey car parks and city hall is offering free on-street parking – click here for more info) there is no reason not to get into the city this Christmas! To see what’s happening and for more information check out http://limerick.ie/christmas/

We are living in tough economic times. Retail sales have been hit severely over the last two+ years & the increase in VAT is not going to help the situation.

But people will still spend and celebrate Christmas. It’s a time for festivities and a time to cherish what we have…

And so this week and every week leading up to Christmas -  the Chamber is urging people in Limerick to support Limerick. Shop in Limerick. Keep your sp€nd in Limerick. And celebrate Limerick & the wonderful eclectic mix of retail, cafe, cultural & many many more attractions that we have. I for one am a proud Limerick man and look forward to enjoying the festive cheer in our great city over the next few weeks.

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