Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

The message now — it’s time to get on with our new economic reality

A few weeks ago one of our young entrepreneurs here in Letterkenny organised an Expo event to encourage business to business transactions.

At his own risk he invested in this venture and invited well-known key speakers such as Eddie Hobbs and David McWilliams and Ben Kench “The Can Can Man”.

Businesses, large and small, exhibited and made some great connections over the two days and I believe in time new partnerships will emerge as a result of this ambitious event that took vision and nerve to deliver.

The event acknowledged the facts about the recession but looked to the positive.

All businesses are dealing with the global downturn but the over-riding message was the need to get on with this new economic reality and not wait for leadership from outside, in fact one headline following the event opined “Donegal genuflects too much to politicians”, a quote from David McWilliams.

We, of course, need politicians, we need effective government and very importantly we need banks, but they alone don’t directly increase the footfall to shops, hotels or other local businesses.

Those who attended the event seemed to be in agreement with this sentiment and are committed to do all in their power to emerge stronger and more positive.

We are reaching the realisation that the world we leave to the next generation will be different and we need a strategic long-term vision for Ireland and the North West not just one looking at the current situation.

We talk a lot here in the North West about attracting and retaining highly skilled people and about our excellent education system and graduates and these are the people we need for the businesses and technologies that will make up the future.

So with this in mind and the experience of the Expo I welcomed the recent launch of the scoping study into the strategic alliance between the Letterkenny Institute of Technology and the University of Ulster.

This alliance will enable Letterkenny Institute, a first-class further education provider with its main campus here in Letterkenny, to collaborate with the whole of the University of Ulster campus.

LYIT is applauded here for its flexibility and expertise in their work with large and small employers, it is just completing the expansion of its business development centre Co-Lab that incubates and houses high growth businesses and it is very much part of the infrastructure and community in Donegal.

That said, the main point here is that both organisations have embraced the North West Gateway and have set their sights further than the Donegal/Derry border, they are looking to the future with a strategic view and not getting deflected by short term issues.

This strategic alliance will in time deliver educational and economic benefits for the North West giving it a stronger, sustainable base.

As the North West emerges from this current state we need to pledge ourselves to these type of strategic alliances, working together across borders, across sectors, across communities and working to make this North West region a force to be reckoned with.

Toni Forrester is CEO of Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce. You can contact her on 00353-74-91-25505, or toni@letterkennychamber.com, or 00353-87-2130495.

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