City can’t take eye off ball, new chamber boss

City can’t take eye off ball, new chamber boss
Cork Chamber out going President Barrie O'Connell, pictured handing over the chain of office to newly elected President, Bill O'Connell, at the Cork Chamber AGM held in the Imperial Hotel. Pic John Sheehan

CORK needs to remain competitive to attract international investment in the coming years, the new president of Cork Chamber has said. 

Bil O'Connell has urged the city to press ahead with office developments and the event centre to keep Cork attractive when it comes to attracting further investment.

Mr O'Connell, son of the legendary entertainer Billa O'Connell, was elected as the new President of the Chamber at its 198th AGM.

A graduate of UCC and Middlesex University who worked for EMC for 28 years, he succeeds Barrie O'Connell, who held the role for the last two years.

He is currently principal of BOC Consulting.

In assuming the new role, Bill paid tribute to his predecessor and the traditions of the Chamber, which will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2019.

"I have some very big shoes to fill," he said.

"Barrie did great work, bringing a real vibrancy and energy to the role."

For the next two years, Bill will represent Cork on a local, national and international level, representing the interests of almost 1,200 businesses and 100,000 employees throughout the region.

He said that Cork is well-primed for growth, but warned that the city must not take its eye off the ball.

"Cork is in a great place. We are near full employment and more people are coming to live, work and visit here. Our third level institutions continue to produce excellent graduates, making Cork all the more attractive for new businesses.

"We have fantastic tier 1 connectivity and Cork Airport is up 8% year-on-year. The new transatlantic services from Wow and Norwegian just add further to that offering.

"Things are going well and that is reflected in our developments, but we have to keep this going.

"One Albert Quay, for example, was fully let before it opened. The Capitol looks fantastic, the Port of Cork was recently announced and Páirc Uí Chaoimh isn't far off opening.

"But we need to keep our eye on the ball."

Mr O'Connell said that there are a number of key developments that the city needs to see in the coming months.

"The event centre launched to much fanfare and it has gone nowhere fast," he said.

"That needs to change. It would be great for the city, especially based on its location - it would really cement our new look city."

He added that office developments are needed to keep pace with the changing international environment.

"Brexit is going to be crucial. Obviously, we don't know the full fallout of everything, but Cork can be proactive and make sure that we attract business to the city," he said.

"We are lucky in that we have more space to develop in than many other cities, so we should continually look to be working to this."

Mr O'Connell cautioned against over-expansion, though.

"We cannot repeat the mistakes of ten years ago," he said.

"We can already see some signs of it: public sector pay talks, spiralling rents, housing issues. We have to remain competitive going forward so we cannot repeat these mistakes."

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