President of Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce Colin Ahern welcomed businesses to the Chamber’s recent 2021 AGM
President of Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce Colin Ahern welcomed businesses to the Chamber’s recent 2021 AGM, the second such AGM to be held online.
Mr Ahern, Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel, was re-elected to his second year as President, and Brian Keyes, Iconic Newspapers, was elected as Vice President.
In his address, Mr Ahern said the manner in which Kilkenny businesses adapted to ensure their survival and the safety of their customers and staff must be commended. He noted that this has not been the case nationwide and indeed Kilkenny has been widely commended in the media and is seen now as a leader in how businesses, communities and local authorities can work together, to navigate through and create a future, post Covid-19.
“In any normal year the big news story would have been Brexit and whilst it has been overshadowed by Covid, it has been a huge challenge for exporters and the retail sector, in particular. When we stepped into the unknown at the beginning of the year, it was clear that most Irish businesses had prepared as well as they could have and had taken the consequences of Brexit seriously from the onset,” said Mr Ahern.
“In Ireland, business will always find a way to do business and Irish people are better than most at that. The shipping lines that opened up nearly overnight from Ireland to mainland Europe have laid waste to the concept of our dependency to trade through the UK and I have no doubt that we will become an even stronger trading nation in the long run. As a representative and supportive organisation, our members needed our help.
“Faced with new and unique challenges imposed upon their businesses, this is where our Chamber has really stepped up.
“Over the past 14 months our Chamber staff have worked tirelessly to ensure that the voice of business in Kilkenny has been heard. Both locally and through Chambers Ireland, we have lobbied Government Ministers, senior officials, county councillors, and the local authority, to ensure that appropriate financial supports were made available to all, from central Government and the county council.
“Last year the Chambers of Commerce made more lobbying returns than IBEC, ISME and the IFA put together. Kilkenny Chamber has been at the heart of that throughout, attending meetings in the last number of months with An Taoiseach, An Tánaiste, the Minister for Finance, along with local TDs. Only last week we met with Minister of State Malcolm Noonan and secured his commitment to champion our cause in several key areas such as the Town Centre First Scheme, the TUSEI, N24 and the extension of the Ring Road.”
Undeterred by the fact that our usual events were curtailed by the pandemic, Kilkenny Chamber moved its networking events online and ramped up activity in this area.
“During the last year we ran more events than ever before, as our Chamber Chats were increased to keep our members engaged and informed,” Mr Ahern outlined.
“The attendance figures were a testament to the success of this increased activity.
“We kept the legacy of our renowned Kilkenny Business Awards Gala Night alive, successfully running a standalone awards programme, which this year saw the President’s Award go to Bobby Kerr and the Lifetime Achievement Award to Mrs Kitty Donohoe. Without the support of our sponsors and media partners the Kilkenny People and KCLR this would not have been possible, and I would like to thank them sincerely for their unwavering support in keeping this great event front and centre in 2020.
“Last Christmas you would all have seen the wonderful new lights on the Parade and in collaboration with Kilkenny County Council and Kilkenny Leader Partnership, it was the Chamber who made the application for almost €100,000 funding, which made this project possible.”
The Chamber also drafted a strong submission last month to the Development Plan, which included observations and recommendations on housing, transport, broadband, TUSEI, tourism, retail and the public realm.
“Going forward, Kilkenny Chamber will continue to operate the Kilkenny Gift Voucher scheme which has ring fenced over €750,000 for Kilkenny businesses since its introduction,” Mr Ahern said.
“In 2020, we successfully collaborated with the Local Enterprise Office and the county council to promote the scheme, increasing our voucher sales by 50% , to well over €200,000 in 2020, in the process. The Kilkenny Gift Voucher is currently accepted in more than 150 outlets and I would encourage you all, if you are inclined to give a voucher as a gift, to choose the Kilkenny Gift Voucher and support local, shop local and click local where at all possible.”
Mr Ahern concluded by thanking the members for their ongoing support and local media for their support in covering the Chamber’s endeavours this year.