The new president of Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade has praised the Council for their vision in producing an ‘Economic Regeneration and Investment Strategy’ document for the next five years. Michael McKeown told the Reporter that he was very excited when he first saw the 76 page publication which was unveiled at the recent BREXIT Debate in Newry but he warned that its full implementation whether full or partially is imperative. The strategy that bears the slogan ‘Proud of Our Past: Building Our Future Together’, states that it is evidence based and addresses short medium and long term goals to achieve financial growth for the citizens of Newry, Mourne and Down. In its forward, Council Chair Naomi Bailie and Councillor Dermot Curran (Chair of Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee) wrote that the District’s assets ‘will be used to derive growth in our business base to increase productivity and competiveness and create a climate for innovation and investment that attracts new businesses and employment opportunities for the benefits of all our citizens. However it is the documents frequent mention of working with Chambers of Commerce to achieve their strategic priorities – such as increasing inward investment and establishing effective business networks – that caught Mr McKeown’s attention when he first read through it.
“I got excited about this strategy originally as 18 of the 23 strategic actions involve partnering up with the chamber,” he said. “So therefore the chambers need to partner up top come back with as close as possible common approach to go to the council. I feel like Mr Serendipity – that these things happen at the right time as they are meant to happen.
“It is the fact that they have produced this document . I have never seen it before so clear that someone would sit down and do this. This is th e first time I have seen a local council producing a strategy document and not only that it has all the sensible words inside it and has the greatest range of statistical information that I would have been asking our chamber to collate and I might have been writing 50,000 letters to get. This has all the data you would need if you are going to go out and sell yourself. You need to know your business and that has what has given me such a heart about it. I have been advocating to everyone else that they are going to have to reads this.”
Mr McKeown added in producing the document the council has acted ‘in the manner of good business’ but the most important this now is how it is implemented. “The first thing to do is get the thing produced and get people to absorb it,” he said. “That is not going to be a day or a fortnight, that could be three to six months. At the end of six months you are looking for shoots, not stalks or blossoms. In six months I will have said it to as many council officials and councillors as I see that this is fabulous and in about six months we need to see the shoots. The have gone to the effort of doing this and they are going to be awfully stupid and silly if they don’t implement it because this has cost money to get this far. The have to find people to implement the 23 strategic actions and one of the people they are looking for is the Chamber and I am ready to get the Chamber to help them. You have to start of woth the plan, a good business plan is never ever written. This is not the ‘tablets of stone’. I would cry for myself if I didn’t take my part in it because they have invited us to be part of it. That is why I am so encouraged. We have been invited to help in it that is why I am so excited. And it is not a reversible thing. That they could say that they really didn’t want the chambers. They have handed me a document that lays out what we collectively have to do over the next 5-6 years and I hope I get it started for the first couple of years and that any successor would be bound into it. If it is partially implemented it will be an improvement. You don’t have to succeed 100 per cent.
2nd December 2015