My fellow council members, I wish to express my sincere thanks for the confidence and trust you have placed in me by electing me President of the Galway Chamber of Commerce. When I reflect on the names of those who have served as President in the past, many of whom are present, not least our out-going President Declan Dooley, it is both an honour and a daunting task to follow in their footsteps, and I will endeavour to serve this Chamber with the same commitment and dedication.
I have in consultation with the Chief Executive, Michael Coyle and Deputy President, Frank Greene identified some key priorities for the Chamber for the year ahead and we hope that you the Council will share this view and approve these priorities.
These priorities are subject to the outcome of the strategic planning exercise which is underway to establish a new shared vision for the Chamber and a strategic plan to achieve this shared vision. This strategic plan will be considered for approval by the Council in the Autumn.
1. Economic Development
Time and again we hear it said that Galway has been very successful in attracting and retaining foreign direct investment – but we should fear complacency – any complacency threatens our future. In 2011 72% of FDI in Ireland was made in the Dublin and Cork regions. Galway Chamber must work to ensure that Galway wins greater share of this investment and becomes or at least becomes part of, the third major economic region of the state. We in Galway Chamber should aspire to the creation of an Atlantic Enterprise Corridor linking Galway, Shannon and Limerick. There is a need to develop a regional strategy to promote more knowledge driven indigenous industries such as ICT delivered services, renewable energy and marine resources.
I ask Council to establish a sub-committee with the specific remit of exploring the potential benefits to be gained from the creation of an Atlantic Enterprise Corridor.
2. Development of Marine Resources
Galway’s long standing tradition of marine science pioneered through the decades by NUI Galway and more recently by my own institution GMIT has created a great foundation of science and innovation in this emerging socio-economic sphere of opportunity.
We are fortunate to have located in Galway the national agency responsible for Marine Research, Technology Development and Innovation, the Marine Institute and it has been my great honour to serve as Chairman of the MI over the last five years.
The MI was the catalyst for the development of a new cross Government initiative with the creation of the Inter-Department Marine Coordination Group.
This MCG has recently published the first ever Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland called Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth which sets out an ambitious programme to achieve over $6Billion in annual turnover from the maritime sectors by 2020.
This marks an historic benchmark in Government attention to the growth potential from the maritime domain.
Furthermore, at an EU level there has been a major increase in the policy and strategic focus on the maritime sphere with the Blue Growth and the Atlantic Strategies (with significant inspiration for these again originating from the MI). These EU strategies highlight the major socio-economic importance and potential from the diverse range of maritime sectors be it traditional sectors: like tourism, shipping and fishing and aquaculture, or the exciting emerging sectors such as: ocean re-newable energy, biotechnology and ICT and sensor technology systems such as SmartBay here in Galway Bay.
We look forward to significant announcements on this front at a major Irish Presidency and European Commission event on May 24th at the MI when we will be joined by the Taoiseach, Minister Simon Coveney, Commissioners Maria Damanaki and our own Maire Geoghegan Quinn.
At the June Council meeting we will consider these announcements and how Galway can position itself to play its part in these exciting developments.
3. Key Infrastructure
Galway Harbour has played a major role in shaping the history of our city and it will continue to play a significant role in facilitating the future economic development of both the city and the region. Galway Chamber must work tirelessly in support of the Harbour Board in bringing the Harbour Development Plan to fruition. The Harbour is vital to ensuring Galway participates in, and enjoys the growth that will ensue from, the development of our Marine Resources.
The completion of the motorway from Gort to Galway will provide motorway access to Shannon Airport with its vital air access to the Heathrow hub and North America and support the aspiration of an Atlantic Enterprise Corridor.
Galway Chamber must redouble its efforts and lobby to ensure that a fifth bridge is constructed across the Corrib. This Council does not need to be reminded of the importance of diverting the current volumes of traffic from the city. Our goal is to preserve and enhance our medieval city as a lived in residential and commercial clean green environment.
4. Galway City Business
Galway city centre is truly the heart of Galway. Through our city business sub-committee we will actively work in partnership with our colleagues in the various city centre business organisations such as ‘Galway City Business Association’ and the ‘Latin Quarter’ to support city centre business. These past five years of economic recession has taken its toll on business, we must work together to ensure that Galway city emerges from this recession to a bright future where Galway will be the premier destination in Ireland for shopping and recreation.
5. The Arts
Galway – ‘the city of the Arts’ – we have long recognised in this Chamber the importance of the Arts to Business and Business to the Arts. Like city business, so also have the Arts suffered from the recession. I propose that later this evening when we come to establish sub-committees of Council that we establish an Arts sub-committee whose core purpose would be to engage with the arts Communities to establish how business and the arts can work together for the greater good of our city. History has shown us that when commerce flourishes so too do the Arts.
Tourism is a vital industry to Galway and Galway has a unique product to offer – Festivals, Arts, Culture, Irish Language, Medieval City and the Harbour. These must be protected and developed. I emphasise again the importance of the development of the Harbour in this context, to enhancing the attractiveness of the city and enabling it to become a popular cruise line destination. Galway is the bi-lingual city of Ireland and the Chamber will continue to work closely with our valuable member and partner ‘Gallimh le Gaeilge’ in promoting the use of the Irish language in the city.
I ask Council to establish a ‘Tourism’ sub-committee to work with the various tourist agencies and organisations in developing our tourist product.
7. The Chamber and its Subsidiaries
The year ahead will be a challenging one for the Chamber and its subsidiaries, Galway Airport and Galway Technology Centre.
(a) The Board of Galway Airport have been successful in developing a viable business plan for 2013, however, we now need to look to 2014 and beyond. In the next few months this Council and the Board of the Airport will need to produce a strategy for the Airport site and how this asset can best be utilised to support the economic development of Galway.
(b) The Board of Galway Technology Centre has been equally successful in putting the company on a sound financial footing and increasing the occupancy levels. The Chamber, WestBic and the Board will need to work closely together to develop a long-term vision for GTC and how it can best support the economic development of Galway.
The Chamber will as part of developing its Strategic Plan include a strategic review of its ownership of these subsidiaries.
(c) Membership – This Chamber derives its strengths from its members. We will engage members on their needs and host seminars and networking events to facilitate knowledge sharing among members. The Chamber will continue to lobby and speak out on behalf of our members on relevant topics. I ask Council to establish a ‘Membership & Events’ sub-committee with the primary focus to grow the membership of the Council.
(d) Funding & Governance – A great deal was achieved last year in improving our governance structures and I would ask that the Audit Committee continue with their good work to ensure that Galway Chamber operated to the highest standards of good corporate governance. The funding of the Chambers operations continues to be a cause of concern and as promised at the time of approving the budget the Treasurer, Paul Shelly, will conduct a mid-year review of the Chamber’s finances in July and report to Council.
(e) Co-Options – I will request Council to consider two co-options to Council at its June meeting.
8. Galway 2040
The Galway Chamber is of course an organisation with a focus on business, but our leadership does not stop there. We also have a responsibility as a community of leaders, to our society in general and specifically to the citizens of Galway.
While it is imperative that we deal with immediate short term challenges, we should also raise our heads to look beyond the horizon, to look out ten-twenty-thirty years, to understand what kind of Galway we will pass on to the next generation, to our children and our children’s children.
The Galway 2040 initiative is a tool to help us look over the horizon. It is a Foresight Exercise. It is not an end in itself. It is a metaphor for inter-generational visioning and planning. At its simplest, it is attempting to establish the habit of long range planning. The idea is that it creates wide-ranging dialogue with as many citizens and representative groups as possible, to support the creation of a shared vision, objectives and strategies.
I commend our continued participation in the Galway2040 leadership alliance of the Chamber, GMIT, NUIG with a view to publishing a working roadmap document by May of next year.
What is our Vision for Galway?
“Galway - the de facto economic and cultural capital of the Western seaboard of Ireland will be recognised and celebrated as the best city of its size in Europe in which to live, work and recreate.”