Fingal Chamber President's Christmas Message
My year as President has been more challenging than I could ever have imagined. The year started with great optimism even though we had the uncertainty of Brexit. The economy was good and the levels of employment were great. The arrival of the Covid pandemic fundamentally changed life for both business and our families. We were glued to news updates from the Taoiseach and Chief Medical Officer and Covid 19 became the defining event of 2020. Our sense of being social and engaging with greetings such as a handshake was suddenly changed to staying in our own bubble and maintaining social distance.
At the beginning of the year, we had made some fundamental structural changes to our chamber.
Firstly we had moved to new offices at Dublin Airport Central. This was a strategic move to reflect the growth of the chamber and position us for longer-term continuous growth. We wanted to achieve a neutral location that reflected the overall cross Fingal focus of the chamber while also putting in place local town actions.
Secondly, we changed the Chamber President’s term from two years to one year to bring us in line with other chambers. Hence all future Presidents including myself will serve one year.
Thirdly, we created the additional role of Deputy President for the Chamber to give us more leadership visibility and impact across the broader Fingal area. We agreed that succession planning will be current Deputy President moving to President and current Vice President moves to Deputy President.
Fourthly, in the second half of the year, we decided to change our name and brand from Fingal Dublin Chamber to Fingal Chamber to recognise the strength of Fingal and bring us in line with the County Council and other stakeholders.
In March, we seamlessly moved the Chamber staff to work virtually for the majority of our services. We reacted to the new reality by changing our focus to helping businesses survive in 2020. Physical events disappeared, but we maintained an active agenda, resulting in a board set of initiatives and achievements. Some 2020 highlights:
Fingal Dublin Skillnet Network was launched in March 2019 and has flourished in 2020 with 127 training events of which 102 were delivered virtually.
Our membership numbers remained steady which is a great achievement and an acknowledgement of the value provided by the chamber. In addition, we added one additional strategic partner.
We lobbied extensively on behalf of the Fingal business community utilising our membership of Chambers Ireland to lobby government on all business-related issues. In the last few months, our focus has been on ReStart grants, Commercial Rates waivers, TWSS/EWSS payments, VAT Rate reductions for all sectors and in particular Tourism and Hospitality.
We supported local initiatives such as the ‘See It Say It campaign’; the local town free public wifi project and the Shop Local ‘Fingal In It Together Charter’. The See It Say It Campaign is rolled out in Main Street Swords. The local Town Wifi is rolled out in Howth, Portmarnock, Malahide and Blanchardstown. The Fingal in it Together campaign has united businesses as they work to recover from the impact of Covid.
Corporate Social responsibility is important and we took a decision to commit annually 10% of Chamber profits to the CSR budget. We have launched our updated CSR program for applications and our first grants will be awarded in early 2021.
While our main focus this year was on short term business survival, we also did a lot of work on the Chamber five year strategy which is now available for member input and consideration. We have consolidated our position as the third-largest chamber in Ireland and with the growth and diversity of Fingal, there is lots of opportunity for growth of membership and services.
Tourism and Hospitality is one of the key sectors for employment in Fingal and was severely impacted by the pandemic. We worked actively with Fingal Co Council on both short term measures and longer-term strategy for the sector.
We have done work on a Business Information magazine which will launch next February in both hard and soft copy on Issuu.com. We will include articles from FCC and small and large businesses in Fingal.
Christmas is a time which inspires hope. At the end of 2019, our major business concern was the potential impact of Brexit. This was superseded in 2020 with the Covid pandemic. Currently, we need to be optimistic that a deal will be reached on Brexit and at the same time prepared for no deal. The recent news on vaccines adds to our hopes for 2021. We have seen businesses transform in 2020 to cope with new realities. We have seen residents of Fingal find new career opportunities.
Thank you to the following:
- To our Deputy President – Andrea Molloy - I would like to wish Andrea all the very best for her tenure as President for 2021.
- To our Vice President – Adeline O’Brien - I would like to wish Adeline all the very best for her tenure as Deputy President.
- To our Treasurer – Maura Cassidy, who has immense knowledge of both the original D15 chamber and the enlarged Fingal Chamber
- To my fellow Board and Council members for all their input over the last year
- To the CEO and Staff at the Chamber Office under the expert leadership of Anthony Cooney. I am immensely grateful for their guidance, advice and support. Thanks to Anthony, David, Agata, Freda, Fergal and Shay.
- To you – The members – We are here to serve your interests and the board and Council appreciate your unwavering support.
- We continue to work very closely with Fingal County Council and indeed would like to express our gratitude to CEO Anne Marie Farrelly and the Director of Services, Emer O’Gorman.
As Walt Disney stated. “A dream is a goal with a deadline”. We are optimistic that 2021 will be a great year for business and social interaction.
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