Reflecting on a year that posed many unanticipated challenges for its member companies, which were responded to with powerful resilience, Shannon Chamber is looking ahead to a year of continuous adaptation but with some glimmer of hope for sectors adversely affected by the pandemic once the escalation of the virus can be tackled and vaccines more widely distributed.
Reviewing the outcomes of 2020, Chamber CEO Helen Downes, said: “COVID-19 was not in our vocabulary when we set our plans for 2020, yet, by March, it was a term that the entire nation became familiar with. Never did we anticipate that we would be conducting our business off site; our team would be working remotely and our linkage with our member companies would be via computer screens. However, unexpected occurrences call for resilience and adaptation and that is what our team and member companies can be proud of; they demonstrated an innate innovativeness, an adaptive instinct, and a resolve to keep the wheels of commerce moving.
“Government intervention, via the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS), the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), Budget 2021 interventions, and most importantly, support for Shannon Airport, enabled many business doors to remain open but there is still a battle to be fought to return to pre COVID-19 status.
“The distribution of the vaccine offers a glimmer of hope and our call to the entire population of the Mid-West region is to do everything within their power to prevent the spread of the virus so that our economy can revert to some form of operational normality in the shortest possible timeframe.
2020: In Review
Describing 2020 as a year that was very different but rewarding from a Chamber attainment perspective, Ms Downes stated: “The Chamber’s achievements were the result of team flexibility and the support of a board with multi-sectoral expertise, led by President Stephen Keogh, and buoyed towards year-end with the addition of three new directors representing the multinational, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sectors, and academia.
“Despite the disruption of COVID-19, we managed to deliver a continuous service to our members in 2020, albeit mostly from our virtual desks. We do look forward to returning to our desks in a full-time capacity at Shannon Airport House in 2021,” Ms Downes said.
- Shannon Chamber maintained real-time communications with companies at the onset of and throughout COVID-19 to ensure that the supports on offer from Government were relevant and structured appropriately to meet its members’ needs.
- 35 business seminars and workshops on a very wide range of educational and information topics were delivered via Webinar.
- 170 online training programmes, involving over 1,300 participants, were delivered to 250 companies via Shannon Chamber Skillnet – this level of training resulted from Shannon Chamber, as a Skillnet promoter, successfully applying for 3 rounds of funding from Skillnet Ireland, which positioned the Chamber to extend its training offering to not only help employees of member companies but also to those who are unemployed or receiving Pandemic Unemployment Payments. This funding also enabled and will continue to enable Shannon Chamber to assist companies forced to downsize in any way to ensure that their employees have the skills they need to seek employment elsewhere, in the same or an alternative sector. Shannon Chamber will continue to apply for new and more funding in 2021 over and above the funding secured to support companies and the unemployment that has evolved because of COVID -19.
- 6 in-company and online workshops were delivered by the Mid-West Lean Network.
- Several new initiatives were delivered during 2020, namely:
- Shannon Chamber HR: a dedicated HR and Employment Law Support Service for members of Shannon Chamber. Provided in partnership with Adare Human Resource Management, Shannon Chamber HR provides Chamber members with access to leading experts in Employment Law, Industrial Relations (IR) and HR, at preferential rates.
- HR COVID-19 Hub, which offers weekly information on items of interest or concern to companies working through the pandemic.
- A Display Screen Equipment (DSE) training and ergonomics assessment solution to ensure that Chamber members remain compliant with health and safety legislation. This was launched in partnership with Adare Human Resource Management.
- Shannon Chamber compiled and submitted comprehensive submissions on behalf of its members to Government, Clare County Council, and the National Transport Authority, namely:
- Budget 2021: Shannon Chamber was a partner contributor to Chambers Ireland’s Pre-Budget 2021 Submission to Government
- Shannon Town Masterplan
- Clare County Development Plan Public Consultation
- Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (LSMATS) Public Consultation
- N19 Shannon Airport Access Road Improvement Scheme Public Consultation
- National Development Plan (WIP for January 2021)
- Shannon Chamber proactively lobbied Government and local elected representatives on issues as diverse as:
- Delivery of Aviation Task Force requests
- Closure of Shannon Heritage sites in the region
- Issues related to COVID-19 and its impact on SMEs
- Extension of COVID-19 ReStart programme to medium-sized enterprises not supported by State Agencies
- EU Community Recovery Fund and its allocation to Ireland/Mid-West region
- Wage Subsidy Scheme
- Rates waiver
- Permits for overseas workers on temporary assignment during COVID-19
- Financial losses being incurred by hauliers having to return to Ireland with empty trucks during COVID-19
- Importance of Aviation sector as a driver of economic activity / support for Shannon Airport
- Support for a direct RoRo service between Rosslare Euro Port and mainland Europe post Brexit
- Three new directors joined the Shannon Chamber board – Vivian Farrell, CEO, Modular Automation, Siobhan Roche, General Manager of PTG (Precision Tool Group) and Órlaith Borthwick, Manager of the Careers and Employability Service at Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) – which will equip the board with the skillset to enable the Chamber deliver even better outcomes for its members in the years ahead.
Looking ahead to 2021, Ms Downes stated: “We will continue to monitor the economic landscape and, either singularly or in collaboration with the regional Chambers in Ennis, Limerick and Galway, keep pressing issues to the fore at Government and local representative levels to ensure that all businesses get the support they require to operate to their optimal in 2021.
“Our focus as a Chamber, whose remit is to support business, will be on helping our members in whatever way we can to overcome the continuing challenges they face. We will also be monitoring the impact Brexit may have on our members’ operations.”