At the President’s Lunch on Friday 14th February 2014
Lord Mayor, distinguished guests, ladies & gentlemen – Now that I have become President it falls to me to take on a public speaking role and that puts the fear of God into me, so bear with me. Thankfully there are many friendly faces here today who know me well and thank you all for coming.
For those of you who don’t know me here’s a brief potted history.
I was born & bred in John Street Wexford. I went to school in Mercy Convent St Johns Road, CBS Primary in George St and I did my Leaving Cert in St Peters College. I left school in 1980 and like many school leavers at that time my focus was on securing the “fine pensionable Job”. So in 1981, I joined Allied Irish Banks. Little did I know what the future would hold!
There was a great saying in AIB in the 1980’s “Join the Bank & see the World” – I never quite saw the world but I have worked in Arklow, Finglas, Ballymun, Crumlin, Raheny, Sutton, Head Office in Bankcentre, Balbriggan, Rush, Skerries, Enniscorthy and finally Wexford!
In AIB Wexford, I am what is known as a Relationship Manager and I am fortunate to work with businesses of all shapes and sizes. To be in a position to welcome my CEO David Duffy to Wexford is indeed an honour. David, thank you for agreeing to be my Keynote Speaker today.
So with nearly 33 years experience working for one of the biggest organisations in the country, I felt I had plenty to offer Wexford Chamber and I’m delighted to say that our fabulous CEO – Madeleine Quirke felt the same. Thank you so much Madeleine for all your faith in me.
When I received the Chains of Office from our former President Fleur Creed, I took some time to look back at the names of the Past Presidents that are engraved here. Some of the names resonate strongly with me and I remember in particular people like Denis Burke, Murt Joyce and the venerable Paddy Fitzpatrick from the Talbot here, a formidable man in his time and indeed a good friend to my family.
It was whilst preparing to speak today that I counted the number of former Presidents and I saw there are 43 recorded on the Chains of Office. So I thought “ I’m the 44th President” there must be something here that I can use in my address today. After some research I discovered that Barack Obama is also a 44th President so I went looking for further inspiration……..
So what do I have in common with Barack Obama ?
Well he’s 6 foot one ……Rich and famous ……and an African American…….
At this point I gave up !
Around this time it was pointed out to me by our very first Lady President, the wonderful Rita Doyle (who is here with us today) that the Chamber pre-dates these chains by a long way.
Indeed I discovered from Rita that the original chains of office went missing in the early 1900’s.
So in my quest to document our history I have discovered records of Chamber meetings as far back as 1822 but the research will continue so watch this space! As part of my Presidency I want to work with the Chamber Team to collate our history and ensure that it is recorded for posterity.
Our present day Chamber, I am very proud to say, is a vibrant organisation. In the last year we have enjoyed a 15% increase in membership with total numbers now standing at 230 and a healthy pipeline of prospective members. We have, like all our members, survived the economic crisis and are looking forward to a bright future.
We have embraced technology on all fronts with our weekly e-zine, profiles on Facebook & Twitter and of course our new pride and joy the “Visit Wexford App”.
I am not sure if many of you realise, but we currently employ 7 members of staff at our office on Hill Street. In the last 5 years we have trained over 20 young people through our FAS CE Scheme and given work experience to many students from various educational establishments. Indeed many of our previous trainees have left us to move on to greater things, some even taking up positions within our members businesses. Something that gives us great satisfaction and we are very proud of.
Each and every one of our team is dedicated to providing a superb customer service to our members and it is an honour to work with them. As President I am very fortunate to have such a superb team behind me and even more so to have such an outstanding CEO in Madeleine.
I am also fortunate to have a very strong board with members from some of the best known businesses in Wexford including Celtic Linen, Kent Stainless, Rosslare Europort, Chevron Training, Zurich, PWC, Kehoe & Associates, the Talbot Group, Bank of Ireland and individual business people in Fleur Creed, Jim Moore, Frank Hynes and John Forde.
On average, the Chamber hosts over 60 events in a calendar year providing any amount of opportunities for networking. Our annual Business Awards have become the envy of Chambers throughout Ireland and our Business Expo continues to go from strength to strength. We have taken innovative steps to engage with our members by establishing Wexford Chamber Business Districts where we interact with members in their own locales.
So what does 2014 hold for the Chamber ? Already, myself and Madeleine have met with our Office Team to review 2013 and plan for the future. Two weeks ago we met with a group of Past Presidents to discuss the Chambers current standing in the business community and to learn from their years of service.
Last week we had a wonderful meeting with the Charge D’Affaires from the US Embassy and representatives of the American Chamber of Commerce to discuss ways to expand exports from Wexford based companies into the US.
Only Yesterday, we held a meeting with the Steering Group for our Business Awards to ratify the selection and judging criteria for the 2014 Awards Ceremony in June. Next week we are meeting with a representative group of local retailers and businesses to seek synergies in our approach to promoting Wexford and doing business in Wexford.
And in 2 weeks time we are bringing our Board of Directors together to review 2013 and plan ahead for 2014 and beyond.
On the contentious subject of RATES we will be keeping a close eye on developments and we will continue to lobby at local level through our local representatives and at national level through our affiliated body Chambers Ireland.
Regarding the Wexford Fringe we are working with all stakeholders to substantially expand our offering. We want to ensure that The Fringe continues to grow and flourish as a very integral part of the Wexford Social and Business calendar. We are working closely with RIKON who are based in WIT to improve relationships between businesses in Wexford and South Wales
And we are particularly excited about a new project to develop and promote Wexford as an E-Town – more on that coming soon.
So as you can see there is plenty to keep us busy !
About 2 or 3 years ago at a Board Meeting I boldly mentioned the word RELEVANCE.
I was then, and still am, convinced that like any business we need to be relevant to our target market. Since then we have strived to ensure that Wexford Chamber is relevant to our members and I’m sure you will agree that with a 15% increase in membership we are succeeding in that mission.
Throughout my term as President, I want us to continue to be relevant in everything we do. But I also want to introduce a new word into our culture and that word is INCLUSIVITY.
I want to appeal to ALL business people in Wexford, ALL of the Groups and Organisations that have Business and Tourism in Wexford at the heart of what they do to come and engage with us. I give you my word that Wexford Chamber will meet with you and work with you to ensure that our wonderful town achieves the recognition and success that it so richly deserves. I am convinced that if we ALL work together we will ALL benefit from a brighter and more vibrant future.
So I say to everyone in business in Wexford…LET US JOIN FORCES AND PUT WEXFORD AT THE HEART OF EVERYTHING WE DO !
Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen