Shannon Chamber’s strategic intent on ensuring that Shannon’s legacy for pioneering, inspirational and entrepreneurial achievements is perpetuated and recognised was clearly evident in the Chamber’s wide-ranging activities in 2023.
The launch of its Strategic Plan 2023 – 2026 in January saw the Chamber pledge to be the voice and lobbyist for business in Shannon; to grow and deliver value to its diverse membership; to champion the delivery of the Shannon Town Centre Masterplan; to promote the unique proposition of ‘Brand Shannon’ to grow the region’s economy and connectivity; to position the Chamber as a thought leader on issues that impact Shannon and the region; and to collaborate on promoting sustainability and renewable energy.
Reviewing the Chamber’s achievements against these objectives, Chamber CEO Helen Downes said: “Our level of engagement with key stakeholders, via lobbying and submissions to Government, on issues impacting Shannon and the region increased in 2023. Significant progress was made on moving the Shannon Town Centre Masterplan to delivery stage with public consultation on the OneShannonHub now underway by Clare County Council. We welcomed an increasing number of overseas delegations to Shannon and, we launched the new Mid-West Sustainability Network, which delivered the inaugural sustainability week for the region.
“We completed the year with a call to Government to expediently capitalise on the great new opportunity the floating offshore wind sector offers Ireland and will be proactively collaborating with our Mid-West Chambers to move this forward in 2024,” said Ms Downes.
Focusing in on business sustainability, Ms Downes pointed to the evidential increased focus on upskilling and reskilling displayed by member companies in 2023, which is expected to continue in the year ahead.
“Shannon was the industrial powerhouse for the raising of living standards in the Mid-West region since its embryonic years and this has continued to today, with a diverse industry base providing employment to over 10,000 people. We want to play our part in facilitating further growth in existing enterprise but also in new and developing sectors. That’s why, via our Skillnet business network, we partner closely with our member companies to create upskilling programmes that are responsive to their business needs and designed to develop future-ready talent.
“Shannon’s skilled and agile workforce has been a pivotal component of its economic development, both in supporting the growth of its indigenous industry base and in attracting multinational investment. The criticality of ensuring that the region’s workforce remains skilled and competitive cannot be overstated. Having the right talent enables companies to sustain through all industry cycles; it gives them competitive advantage and enables them to future proof their enterprises.
“That’s why we have applied to Skillnet Ireland for additional funding for the next three years to enable us to also plan ahead, scan the horizon for new trends and opportunities and ensure that our training offering delivers optional benefits to members. Engagement from companies has grown since we established the Skillnet network in 2015 and we will continue to apply for more funding opportunities as they arise,” added Ms Downes.
Looking ahead to 2024, Ms Downes said the focus on sustainability will continue with plans currently underway to deliver a second sustainability week in autumn.
“Our business networks are an intrinsic part of our offering to members. With four networks now operational – the CEO Forum, the HR Forum, the Mid-West Lean Network, and the Mid-West Sustainability Network – and delivering tangible benefits to members, due in the main to their activities being member led, the focus on collaboration will continue.
“This collaboration will extend into our interactions with key stakeholders on issues of concern to members, most notably the housing crisis and its impact on employee recruitment and retention. We look forward to healthy dialogue on this issue with Darragh O’Brien TD., Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage when he presents to our members on 16 February at Dromoland Castle Hotel.
“Our role as a Chamber is to focus on activities that deliver results for our members and our region. This focus will continue, through working on our own initiative and in collaboration with partners
“Through affiliation to Chambers Ireland and our representation on the board, we will ensure that issues impacting business and the drive for balanced regional development are kept to the fore at national level.
“Our response (April 2023) to the draft Public Consultation on Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan II (OREDP II) reiterated the principles and businesses cases made by Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) chambers in many previous years of government submissions .
“We have called for a delivery agency to turn Ireland and the AEC’s potential as a high value added net-exporter of renewable energy into reality. This agency would work in the space between investors and policy makers. Its role would be to ensure that the eco-system is aligned and that there is a clear and consistent approach to attracting and securing investment.
“We will continue to work with other chambers, Government and agencies such as the Western Development Commission (WDC) Shannon Foynes Port, Shannon Estuary Task Force to ensure that policies, funds and action are in place to provide the critical infrastructure and other enablers required to develop the offshore wind energy supply chain across the AEC.
“We believe in the value of collective effort and thank our members, our sponsors, and our diverse stakeholders for working with us for the betterment of Shannon and the wider region and enabling us to deliver the results achieved in 2023, as set out in the Review of the Year 2023 below,” added Ms Downes.
Review of the Year 2023
Lobbying on issues of concern to members
Initiating and influencing change that positively adjusts the conditions for business and the environment in which its members operate is a priority of Shannon Chamber.
Key issues brought to the attention of Government and the region’s Oireachtas and elected representatives, and local authorities during 2023 included requests that:
- The key criteria required to develop a floating offshore wind energy sector in Ireland be actioned, namely:
- its inclusion in Phase 3 of the Future Framework Policy, scheduled for issue in Q1, 2024
- that designated maritime area plans (or DMAPs) be prepared to zone Ireland’s Atlantic waters; and
- that a 400MW floating wind demonstrator be included in the schedule of Renewable Energy Support Scheme auctions.
- The administration burden that Section 897C of the Finance Act 2022, relating to ‘Enhanced Reporting Requirements’, will place on our members, not proceed. In line with Chambers Ireland, Shannon Chamber, on behalf of its members, requested that the ‘Order of Commencement’ would not be signed, pending further discussion with the business community.
- Flexible mechanisms to enable conversion of commercial buildings to residential be initiated to alleviate the housing shortage businesses now face.
- Funding be provided under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) to enable the delivery of the OneShannonHub, a key element of the new Shannon Town Centre Masterplan.
- The Regional Airports Programme (RAP) be expanded to include all regional airports with under 3 million passengers for CAPEX, PPR-C and PPR-O support, as permitted under EU State Aid rules. This would assist in delivering the objectives of Ireland 2040 and the Climate Action Plan. Extending the RAP to all regional airports would provide an opportunity to address the imbalance that currently exists in aviation in Ireland, support investment in the regions, and help realise the objectives of Ireland 2040. It would deliver a more balanced economy for the country and recognise the benefits of our airports for economic growth.
“Shannon Chamber welcomes the most recent funding of €7.1 million provided by Government to Shannon Airport and looks forward to its permanent inclusion in this funding stream when the mid-term review of RAP is complete.”
- The Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (LSMATS) be implemented particularly as it relates to Shannon and creating connections to Bunratty and Limerick via road, bus, cycling, and greenways.
- Shannon Chamber and Shannon Free Zone businesses be consulted on the proposed IPAS accommodation centre at Shannon Free Zone so that the Chamber and businesses can understand what is being planned and how they can make the new arrivals’ transition into Shannon easy for all concerned – the businesses and the people proposed to be accommodated in Unit 153.
- Positive consideration and commitment be given to the contents of a submission made by the Chamber and the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) to the Draft Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan 11.
- Issues affecting Chamber member companies in attaining visas for new hires from non-EEA countries be redressed.
- An update on the status of the National Aviation Policy be provided.
- The contents of the Chamber’s submission to Bus Connects Limerick be taken on board, most notably that:
- Each element of the overall transport strategy for connecting Shannon with Limerick City and onwards to key commutable areas be viewed in a hub and spoke context and not as individual plans servicing their respective areas.
- Consideration be given to better integrating services connecting Limerick and Shannon with flight times to and from Shannon Airport.
- Direct services be provided between Shannon and Limerick’s universities.
- Funding be provided to Clare County Council to enable the unique assets and the associated development potential of Shannon Heritage sites in Co. Clare to be transferred the Council and that the 150 jobs be secured.
All of the above were also discussed in person during Ministerial visits by:
- Jack Chambers TD., Minister of State for Transport (January 2023)
- Simon Coveney TD., Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (October 2023)
- Michael McGrath TD, Minister for Finance (December 2023)
Submissions to Government and Local Authorities
Where and when relevant, Shannon Chamber responds to and initiates submissions to Government on issues of regional and national importance. We do this on our own volition and/or in partnership with Chambers Ireland and relevant organisations in our sphere of influence.
Submissions made in 2023 included:
- Jan & June 2023: Mid-Term Review of the Regional Airports Programme 2021 – 2025
- April 2023: BusConnects Limerick
- April 2023: Draft Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan 11 (OREDP 11)
- September 2023: Shannon Town and Environs Local Area Plan 2024 – 2030
- October 2023: Shannon Town and Environs Flood Relief Scheme
- November 2023: Clare County Council Draft Climate Action Plan 2024 -2029
- December 2023: Clare Local Economic and Community Plan 2023 – 2029
The above listed submissions can be downloaded at www.shannonchamber.ie/about/policy-submissions/
A Proactive Events Schedule
Hosting in-person and virtual events on topics of relevance and beneficial to member companies encourages cross-collaboration of thought and action amongst members. Hence, Shannon Chamber hosted 50 events in 2023 which included:
- The launch of its Strategic Plan 2023 – 2026
- 5 lunch events with keynote speakers
- David McRedmond, CEO, An Post
- Anne O’ Connor, Managing Director, Vhi Health & Wellbeing
- Leo Clancy, Chief Executive Officer, Enterprise Ireland
- Simon Coveney, TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment
- Michael McGrath, TD, Minister for Finance
- 4 visiting delegations:
- Ambassador Florence Ensch, Embassy of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in Ireland
- The Ireland India Business Association
- Chinese delegations from Sichuan Airlines Co. Ltd. & Lin-gang Special Area of China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone delegation
- 2 conferences
- S4 Conference: Specialists Sharing Sustainability Strategies (culmination event in the Mid-West Sustainability Week 2023)
- Mid-West Lean Network Conference: Maintaining Lean Momentum
- Annual Golf Classic with full timesheet involving 56 teams playing on the day.
- 35 seminars and business meetings held in association with a wide range of stakeholders including Adare HRM, Mazars, VHI, Grant Thornton, PwC, Regional Skills Forum, Enterprise Ireland, EY, Clare County Council, Skillnet Ireland, Construction Industry Federation (CIF), National Biodiversity Data Centre, Uisce Éireann, and ESB.
- 3 workshops and 2 visits to Toyota Lean Management Centre, Derby, UK, hosted by the Chamber’s Mid-West Lean Network. The workshops included presentations from Coca-Cola, Abbvie, Chemifloc Ltd., Advanced Technical Concepts Ltd., and Virgin Media Ireland.
Partnering with industry to create and deliver upskilling programmes
Shannon Chamber has been operating a Skillnet business network since 2015, the purpose of which is to ensure that member companies have the talent they need to succeed. The Network is co-funded by Skillnet Ireland and network companies and offers a suite of training programmes that address the skills deficits of enterprise. All training offered is in response to a ‘Training Needs Analysis’ (TNA) survey, issued annually to all member companies. This ensures that the courses we offer directly reflect the specific needs of companies while also equipping employees with the types of new and enhanced skills they may need to augment within their organisations.
In 2023, Shannon Chamber Skillnet delivered 123 training programmes and events to 130 companies involving more than 600 trainees. The Chamber has applied for additional funding streams for 2024-2026 to expand our range of offerings to our members over the coming years. This will ensure that companies and their employees future-proof their skills for company and personal progression.
The Network is led by a Steering Group, which is chaired by Dr. Wassim Derguech, co-founder and chief operating officer of Future Mobility Campus Ireland, and includes:
- Orla McCarthy, HR Director, Pepper Finance Corporation Limited
- Fiona Gilchrist, Shannon R&D Lead, Jaguar Land Rover
- Edmund Jennings, Managing Director, CREGG Group
- Maria Frost, Vice President, Human Resources, Engine Lease Finance
- Reg Bennett, Site Learning & Development Lead. LGC Group
- Peter Murphy, Marketing, Business Development & CSR EI Electronics
- Denise Gavin, Director, Eoin Gavin Transport
- Jenny Mullins, HR Business Partner, Element 6
The Steering Group overseas the activities of the Skillnet Business Network, provides guidance and monitors performance against key performance indicators.