It has been an exceptionally busy year for Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce, the Island’s biggest business network. Here is Chamber’s review of 2017.
The Isle of Man Budget in February aimed to improve the finances of those working hard to fuel the Island’s economy by reducing the tax burden on the lower paid, and prioritising benefit payments to those in employment, over those who are not. Chamber welcomed the fact that Government appeared to share our commitment to the principle that growth of the economy and the working population will bring the prosperity essential to the Island’s future success.
In the spring, Chamber began a campaign to highlight the need to break down barriers to economic growth on the Island, reflecting widely held concerns amongst businesses in all key sectors of the economy. In particular, Chamber focused on the need to address the skills gap, grow the population, address concerns about transport links, and issues affecting commercial and residential property.
In July, news that the Department of Economic Development’s plans to restructure to a leaner model focusing on business development and economic strategy was welcomed by Chamber. President, Micky Swindale, said that the reduction in the size of the Department, coupled with a move towards agencies, should allow a sharper focus on the core issues and opportunities and the ability to bring the best people from across our economy – public sector and private sector – to work together in pursuit of our collective goals.
Chamber’s annual gala dinner was held at the Villa Marina in September. Members and guests said thank you to Micky Swindale as she stepped down after completing her two year term of office as President – fittingly, the evening featured a presentation by FUEL (Future Emerging Leaders) which is an initiative that she launched in her inaugural speech as President as part of a broader campaign to encourage younger members to get involved with the organisation. Chris Allen was formally appointed as Chamber’s new President.
Guests of honour were His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor Sir Richard Gozney; Department of Economic Development Minister Laurence Skelly MHK; Department of Economic Development CEO Mark Lewin; and Chief Secretary Will Greenhow who is head of the Isle of Man Civil Service. Chamber also welcomed some good friends from Wirral Chamber of Commerce – CEO Paula Basnett, and her colleagues Sharon Stanton, Patsy Crocker, and Graham Maddrell.
In October, Chamber broadly welcomed changes to work permit rules which make it easier for businesses to recruit personnel with essential skills or experience. Chamber has campaigned for a suspension of work permits, and while the Government’s reforms fell short of that goal, Chamber believes that any moves to simplify the system should be applauded. In November a survey of Chamber members showed that a majority of business leaders support the principle of introducing a living wage on the Island, but many have concerns that it’s not economically viable at the present time, and that it might damage the quality of life here.
In recent weeks Chamber President Chris Allen has been working on an exciting new opportunity to improve how Chamber engages with start-ups and entrepreneurs, and he has also been speaking to Rob Callister MHK about the potential for Chamber to be involved in the workshops on air links, specifically the Open Skies policy. Both of these developments will be pursued in 2018, alongside other key strategic objectives.
2018 will represent the beginning of a new era for Chamber with the roll-out of more services for members and the launch of initiatives to enhance engagement with Government, and news and social media. Chamber is keeping the details under wraps until the New Year, but can promise some exciting announcements about how the organisation plans to develop new business relationships, and help to promote economic growth by strengthening Chamber’s status as the Isle of Man’s leading business network.
If you want to join Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce, go to http://www.iomchamber.org.im/public/join-chamber.aspx or phone 01624 674941.
Photo - Chris Allen, who became President of Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce in September.