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Skillnet Ireland is a business support agency whose mandate is to advance the competitiveness, productivity and innovation of Irish businesses through enterprise-led workforce development.

On their behalf, we are  working with our own member companies and across the manufacturing sector, to ensure that the right workforce solutions are delivered via networks like ours. These solutions will help to enable the successful re-emergence, recovery and growth of Irish manufacturing, post Covid-19.

​We would greatly appreciate it if you can complete the survey (see link to survey below)  to identify key challenges and opportunities facing your organisation, in order that real and meaningful supports can be provided to your business in the challenging times ahead.

This survey is anonymous and your input is invaluable. Please complete by Wednesday 27th May 2020, it should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.

[Link to Survey]

Following today’s (22 May 2020) launch of the Restart Fund, Chambers Ireland calls on Government to urgently commit to increased funding and a more expansive approach, so that businesses of all sectors affected can receive support.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot emphasised the need for Government to engage more deeply with the reality of the economic challenges facing the business community and local economies across the country.

“The scale and scope of supports for business needs to be radically expanded. Today’s launch of the Restart Fund is welcome, and we are encouraging our members to make full use of the initiative. However, we need Government to accept the scale of the economic catastrophe which is upon us, and act accordingly.

As noted in today’s report from Goodbody, compared to our EU counterparts, Ireland has done nowhere near enough to support our local economies. Half measures, which do not engage sufficiently with the needs of the business community, are inadequate in the current circumstances.

Many sectors of the economy have been effectively excluded from the government supports introduced to date: for example, the self-employed are not eligible for the Wage Subsidy Scheme and Government has ceased the Business Continuity Grant within the past week.

We appreciate and value the Government response so far, in areas such as the TWSS and Pandemic Unemployment Scheme. However, as we now move from lockdown to reopening, the scale of the response that is needed to tackle this crisis should not be underestimated. Failure to take further appropriate action in support of business could leave us in a worse economic environment that will undo the achievements of the measures which have been introduced to date.

Immediately, liquidity is the most pressing concern. Indeed, it is grant aid, not debt-based solutions, that will be required. The Restart Grant, while a step in the right direction, needs to be significantly expanded, so that it can do more to support business.  Without these reforms, businesses will not be able to reopen and their former workers will continue to need direct government support. 

The EU Commission’s guidance for Ireland is clear - we need to “take all necessary measures to effectively address the pandemic, sustain the economy and support the ensuing recovery”. We must follow this advice. Economic shocks of this scale require more than marginal adjustments. Tinkering at the margins wastes time and cost our country opportunity and jobs.

In the medium to long term, much more will need to be done to support various sectors, but today we should focus on our members’ immediate concerns about liquidity. The time for action is now, every day’s delay hurts our country more.”

Chambers Ireland calls for the Government to:

  • Reopen and re-fund schemes like the Business Continuity Fund
  • Give certainty on commercial rates, supplementing Local Authority budgets accordingly
  • Expand the restart grants so that more businesses can access them
  • Publish the proposed legislation that will establish the €2 billion Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund
  • Publish a timeline on how long the TWSS will continue, for which sectors, and to what degree
  • Give extra funding to Local Authorities so that they can facilitate the changes to our town centres that will allow businesses to adapt

An Post CovidFollowing today’s (20th May 2020) announcement from An Post of its commitment of €2 million worth of practical supports for Ireland’s SMEs to get back to business, Chambers Ireland welcomes this new package of supports, which includes a dedicated eCommerce advice hub for SMEs, and complements the range of business supports already available from Government and the supports of local Chambers nationwide.

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “An Post’s commitment of €2 million in practical supports for SMEs is timely and will be a lifeline to many businesses who are endeavouring to innovate and transform their operations in response to COVID-19.

The new dedicated eCommerce advice hub is a particularly useful support for businesses who want to transition and grow their online sales presence during this challenging time. The hub will also put businesses in touch with vital networks offering key advice including the Local Enterprise Offices.

These supports, which will be available in communities throughout the country, complement existing supports that Chambers throughout our Network offer to local businesses. We look forward to working and collaborating with An Post as we support businesses in response to COVID-19.

Digital transformation has been a necessity for businesses as they respond to the ongoing challenges that COVID-19 brings. Practical supports, like those launched by An Post today, will be critical in supporting business to make this transition.”

Chambers Ireland welcomes the Government’s announcement today (15th May) that the first phase of lifting of Covid-19 restrictions will begin next Monday.

Speaking earlier, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive, Ian Talbot said, “It is with great relief that we can welcome the start of our society’s reopening, in the wake of this unprecedented economic lockdown.

“As we take our first steps along the road to recovery we should be immensely grateful for the efforts of all those who have worked so hard over the last two months to minimise the impact of this disease on our people; the doctors, the nurses, the healthcare assistants and the allied health healthcare professionals who have contracted this disease far more frequently than any other group in our society.

“And we have to think about how hard this has been on the thousands of people who have lost a family member over the last few weeks, both those who died of Covid-19 and those who were lost for other reasons but whose families missed out on the funerals which are so deeply embedded in how we process grief.

“And of course, there’s personal impact that each of us endures during these restrictions, having lost our freedom of movement, the comfort of friendship and family, those with disabilities have lost out on caring, while others have lost their employment. We have all suffered so that those who are most vulnerable to this disease received the treatment they needed.

“For our business community, this reopening will be the beginning of the most difficult period yet.

“We know that while many businesses will be able to reopen on Monday, many others will not. Even for those who can open in Phase One, for many reopening will take time.

“Restocking will have to happen – our logistic networks and supply lines have never experienced the kind of shock they have just received. Staffing problems will occur as people with conditions that make them vulnerable to the disease, or have dependents that still need to be cocooned or cared for, may no longer be able to work.

“And then there is the concern that what is now a tolerable level of infection becomes a second wave that undoes all the efforts and sacrifices what we have endured over the last two months.

“The worst-case scenario is that we see infection rates rise - too many become too sick too quickly and we end up having to go back down into lockdown. This graduated reopening of the economy that the government has outlined is both wise and necessary. To be over adventurous in relaxing these measures risks squandering what was so hard won. 

“Through our collective efforts we have made our lockdown a success; our challenge over the coming weeks will be to make the reawakening of our economy a success. The business community will need support in a way that it has never needed before as it struggles with circumstances that none of us could have planned for.

“The Restart Grants for small businesses that Minister Humphreys announced today is exactly the kind of measure that will be critical for certain businesses if they are to be able to make this reawakening of the economy a success.

“Our concern remains that the measures announced will require improvement, but in the interim we encourage all businesses to assess their eligibility and apply if they qualify. Other measures, such as wage supports, will need to continue too - we have seen in many European countries that even as businesses reopen, they do so with much lower volumes of trade. 

“As the Minister for Health has said, all the things we do in Phase One are done with risk associated. Good business involves taking risks in a measured, carefully managed fashion.”

Reboot Your Business 2Griffith College in association with Chambers Ireland and with the support of Skillnet Ireland, is offering a free nationally-certified management qualification for business managers to support them as they re-launch and reboot their business.

This online programme is supported by a series of webinars that provide guidance on current business challenges and enables managers to create their business development plans. All programme resources are available online.

Participants on the programme can benefit from funded mentoring, supported by Skillnet Ireland. A QQI Certificate in SME Management is awarded to candidates who successfully complete and submit their business development plans to Griffith College.

This week marks the mid-way point for the ten-week course.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive, Ian Talbot said, “We’re very pleased to announce Skillnet Ireland’s support of the “Reboot your Business” partnership with Griffith College.

“While COVID-19 brings many challenges, there are also enormous opportunities for businesses to harness digital transformation, rebuild their operations and adapt to the post-COVID-19 economy.

“This partnership with Griffith College in delivering online education in Business Planning will be essential in supporting business in this transition. This, paired with the Mentoring programme which is supported by Skillnet Ireland, will play an invaluable role in supporting businesses through the crisis, so they can re-build, create jobs, and ensure the long-term resilience and productivity of their operations.”

Skillnet Ireland Chief Executive, Paul Healy, also encouraged businesses to continue to sign up for the free course, “Skillnet Ireland are pleased to partner with Chambers Ireland to support the ‘Reboot your Business’ programme business mentoring as part of our suite of COVID-19 supports. At this challenging time, I would encourage business owners and managers undertaking the programme to avail of the opportunity of mentoring to help navigate their immediate business challenges while preparing for a post COVID-19 recovery.”

Dr Tomás Mac Eochagáin, Griffith College’s Director of Academic Programmes, also commented, “We would like to thank all partners, industry experts and academic staff for contributing their time and expertise to this national business development initiative.”

To register for the programme, or to view the schedule, visit www.griffith.ie.

Chambers Ireland today (9th May 2020) welcomes the launch and publication by Government of the new National “Return to Work Safely” Protocol.

The Protocol serves as a framework to support employers and employees to put measures in place that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace when the economy begins to slowly open.

Speaking at the launch this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The process involved in re-opening the economy will not be a simple one. Ensuring the health and safety of workers, employers and consumers continues to be our shared goal. As businesses around the country plan for how they will adapt to operating during a pandemic, today’s Protocol will be an essential framework to enable that.

“The opportunity to collaborate and consult in the production of the Protocol is very much welcomed by our members. It is intended that this will be a living document and will respond to the changing circumstances we find ourselves in over the coming weeks and months. Our own priority has been to ensure that the Protocol is cognisant of the needs of SMEs, as well as larger companies, so that all businesses are supported to re-open, when the time is right.

“We would also remind Government that the process of re-opening will come with additional costs for many employers, as was found in research published by Chambers Ireland last week. These costs will impact viability in many cases. More financial supports, along with the expansion of grants, will be essential if employers are to restore jobs and successfully re-open within the parameters in place due to the virus. We welcome ongoing dialogue with Government on this matter.”

https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Return-to-Work-Safely-Protocol.html

Following today’s (8th May 2020) publication of CSO data on Live Register and Unemployment Figures, Chambers Ireland calls for significant state interventions to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of people now in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and other supports do not fall into long-term unemployment.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland President Siobhan Kinsella called for short, sharp, agile interventions to ensure that those who are now in receipt of state supports can re-train, be redeployed and return to work.

“We know that the sectors that are hardest hit, like hospitality and tourism, won’t recover overnight. They will need significant support, particularly in terms of cashflow, to restart once it has been deemed safe and appropriate for them to do so. In the meantime, Government needs to take immediate steps to prevent those who have lost jobs because of COVID-19 from becoming long-term unemployed.

“The present challenges for the labour market are entirely different to what we experienced in the last recession, and this time, have little to do with skills obsolescence. While some sectors face enormous challenges because of the nature of the virus, others, such as healthcare and food distribution, continue to face labour shortages.

“State agencies like Solas and Skillnet have been extremely capable in addressing labour market issues that have emerged in recent years. There is now an opportunity, through strategic engagement with industry and business representative bodies, to tackle this issue and prevent patterns of long-term unemployment from emerging.

“Collaboration with industry, particularly SMEs, to create short, agile interventions to re-train and re-deploy those who are currently out of work will be essential if we are to maintain our competitiveness as an economy. Our message to Government is to work with business in finding solutions so we can minimise the scale of unemployment in the months to come.”

Also speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot noted the regional and sectoral impact of COVID-19.

“In no way can we assume that a “v shaped” recovery will follow the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. While the official CSO Live Register and unemployment figures show a rate of 5.4%, the significant numbers of people in receipt of the COVID-19 supports paint a truer picture of what has happened to the labour market since March.

“Chambers Ireland research published this morning highlights the significant impact on sectors such as tourism and hospitality, and how that damage is being felt more strongly in economies along the Atlantic seaboard.

“Sector specific interventions must be paired with a regional approach. Regional Skills Fora, who work closely with our member Chambers, must be appropriately resourced to address these challenges as they emerge.”

Chambers Ireland launches new research this morning (8th May 2020) on the sectoral and regional impact of COVID-19. This follows publication of survey results last week on the 30 April which looks at the economic impact on businesses across the country.

Tourism, hospitality, entertainment, and local services all show signs of having been particularly negatively impacted. Regionally the counties along the Atlantic Economic Corridor are feeling the impact of this economic calamity more keenly than in other regions.

  • Tourism is the most affected sector, with over half of Tourism businesses predicting that their 2020 revenue will be about a third, or less, of what they had been expecting going into the year.
  • The Hospitality sector is impacted by the double effect of reduced consumption within the economy as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions and the challenge of operating their businesses within the context of physical distancing, upon the reopening of the Economy.
  • Entertainment, Culture & the Arts are similarly challenged by the necessary public health restrictions as for many the capacity restrictions on their venues sees their business opportunities being severely limited for the duration of the crisis.
  • Local Services, which include many public facing businesses, including dry-cleaners, gyms, hairdressers, and those which are tied to local areas as a result of the nature of their business are often limited in their capacity to maintain operations through work practice changes such as remote working.

This research follows a report published by the Regional Assemblies earlier this week which identify the geographical areas in Ireland that are more likely to be exposed to economic disruption caused by the measures introduced to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “When we went to the polls in early February, it was not possible to foresee the economic difficulties we would face only a few months later. The research we are launching today highlights the challenge the next Government faces, not only in reopening the economy but in supporting the recovery of sectors and regions that have been disproportionately affected by the outbreak of this virus.

While this crisis is hurting businesses throughout the economy, some sectors such as Tourism and Hospitality are particularly badly impacted. Others such as Local Services have been forced to close by government directive and the uncertainty about the way forward has put livelihoods in peril.

Given the reliance of the Atlantic seaboard counties on industries such as tourism, our research shows us that the west coast is the region most impacted. This ties in with research published by the Regional Assemblies earlier this week.

The best way we can support these sectors and local economies to recover is to ensure the towns, cities and regions become even better places to live, work and do business. It is essential that within the next Programme for Government there is a high impact and well-funded response to support these places and regions to economically diversify, during what will be a very difficult few years to come.

Such a response should include the delivery of investment in regional infrastructure to support economic growth, more supports for the tourism sector and a national funded strategy to ensure that town centres and high streets, where so many of these businesses are based, are supported to thrive.

In particular, there will be a need for an urgent increase in funding for Local Authorities. This is critical as these bodies will be tasked with re-purposing town centres, through increased pedestrianisation, wider footpaths and more bikes lanes, so that they can adapt to the necessary social distancing restrictions that will need to be in place as we move to reopening local economies. This funding must come from central Government. Without adequate funding for local government, we risk exposing our high streets and businesses to further economic damage.”

Waterford AirportWaterford Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley has hit back at the accusation that there was no viable case for continuing to fund Waterford Airport.

The claim came as the three State-owned airports called on the Government to scale back funding for regional airports, including Waterford Airport.

DAA and Shannon Group believe the financial supports which the regional airports current receive are not delivering value for money.

In particular Cork Airport stated it did not believe there was a viable case for a proposed increase in the subvention to Waterford Airport as it had not operated any commercial flights for several years.

However, Gerald Hurley says this is a time to look forward and not back and that Waterford Airport is critical to the growth of Waterford and the South East region as outlined under Ireland 2040.

“Tourism and business growth are key factors in the economic development of the region. A functioning airport to allow for both is essential and any negating on funding at this point could be detrimental.

“We would urge the Government to continue funding regional airports and honour their commitment to conditionally fund the the lengthening and widening of Waterford Airport’s runway. We have heard from our members, who are some of the largest employers in the region, that a functioning airport will be of huge benefit to their international trade and we must do everything we can to ensure this happens. Waterford has some of the top companies in the world but accessibility is a major issue for international executives.

“The work/life balance on offer in Waterford is our strongest selling point and with accessibility and a strong focus on the tourism sector, the Airport is an integral cog in the wheel of promoting Waterford as a great destination to live, work, invest in and do business.”

 

Chambers Ireland welcomes announcement from Cabinet this afternoon (2 May 2020) of additional financial supports for businesses, particularly SMEs, who have been impacted by COVID-19.

The supports range from waivers on commercial rates, grant aid, a loan guarantee scheme and supports for businesses who have tax liabilities.

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The wide-ranging supports announced by Cabinet this afternoon will be welcomed by the business community. What our members have been telling us over the past several weeks is that they need much more support to help fund overheads and working capital, particularly as we move to re-open the economy. Our message to Government throughout the crisis has been that the risk of under-reacting to these economic challenges is much greater than over-reacting. The economic programme that will be required is unprecedented. This afternoon’s announcement shows that this message has been heard.

“The announcements from Government of new supports will be welcomed by businesses, particularly the announcements on commercial rates waivers, supports on tax liabilities and the new Restart Fund, which aims to provide grants to micro and small businesses. This particular scheme is a step in the right direction, as many businesses are facing huge challenges with liquidity and cash-flow.

“Additionally, we welcome confirmation that the Exchequer will replace funding lost to Local Government through waivers on rates with central funding. Our Local Authorities are providing essential services during the pandemic and this assurance of continuity of funding will be well received.

“Implementation of support is critical. The funds proposed must be capable of rapid drawdown and the organisations charged with delivery are properly resourced to undertake the tasks. Further, we reiterate our earlier calls to ensure supports like the Wage Subsidy Scheme are extended beyond the June deadline. We will review the supports closely and look forward to continuing our constructive engagement with Government over the coming weeks and months.”

Chambers Ireland welcomes announcement from the announcement from the Taoiseach this evening (1st May 2020) of plans to re-open the economy in phases over the coming weeks and months.

In research published by Chambers Ireland yesterday (30th April 2020), most of the businesses who responded to our survey noted they will need at least two weeks to re-open, with approximately 25% noting that they would need at least four weeks. The research also emphasised that there are also likely to be significant costs involved in re-opening businesses, which can be attributed to re-stocking and putting appropriate social distancing measures are in place.

Speaking this evening, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The announcement from the Taoiseach this evening will be welcomed and taken as a glimmer of light and hope at the end of the tunnel. The past several weeks have been tremendously challenging for communities, so indications that some restrictions will be eased in the coming days will be warmly received.

“From the perspective of our own members, this evening’s news will be welcomed as we now have some indication of what we are likely to expect between now and the end of the summer. We had been calling on Government to announce what the phased re-opening of the economy will look like. This evening’s announcement that some sectors will be re-opened on the 18th May gives us some clarity and timeframes on how business can start to prepare.

“In new research published by Chambers Ireland yesterday, the business community highlighted the cost and time that would be involved in re-opening, emphasising the need for clear guidance and timelines on when the restrictions will be eased. This includes advance notice of the dates that various sectors will reopen, a clear strategy on what sectors will be first, information on what protocol will need to be in place and whether support will be available to financially assist businesses.

“In advance of the 18th May, we call on Government to collaborate with business to map out how various sectors, transport infrastructure and town centres will be adapted and supported to ensure that restrictions can be safely lifted. The complexity involved in ensuring that communal spaces in urban centres, workplaces and business are adapted properly to support social distancing and public health should not be underestimated. We look forward to working with Government in evolving and agreeing this guidance so the economy can restart again.

“In respect of news that we are to expect further announcements tomorrow of additional business supports, Chambers Ireland reiterates its call for liquidity funds and grant aid for business to cover overheads such as rent, utilities and working capital. We also call on Government to provide clarity on supports for business and local government regarding commercial rates. The deferral announced in March was found to be insufficient by three-quarters of business who responded to our earlier survey published on the 9th May. If action on commercial rates is to have any meaningful impact, they will need to be waived for impacted businesses for at least 6 months, if not a full year. Government must also ensure that Local Authorities can continue to serve communities, and so any shortfall in funding must be replaced with central Government funds.

“Without additional aid to support working capital, liquidity and cash flow, the chance of businesses successfully re-opening and maintaining employment is significantly reduced. We await Government clarity on these matters over the weekend."

 

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"Waterford is a very attractive location for Foreign Direct Investment as it is a dynamic city which is very much open for business – the city has a proven track record of attracting investment from start-ups and expanding business, who are hugely supported by Waterford Chamber. The city, county and region offers a young, well educated workforce and is easily accessible for international visitors. Waterford’s quality of life for employees is exceptional as it blends elements of rich cultural heritage with a new and vibrant lifestyle – with new additions such as the Greenway further showcasing the county to not only locals, but visitors from all over Ireland and overseas. The Chamber has been a vital link in welcoming our companies into the local Business Community – helping them not only network, but also gain a sense of community and belonging."

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