This is an extremely challenging time for businesses across the North West. The COVID-19 virus has threatened to disrupt the foundations of our regional economy and, unfortunately, a number of local businesses have already been forced to temporarily close their doors to preserve their companies. The Prime Minister’s announcement of strict new measures will temporarily change our lives utterly, but they are necessary measures which will halt the spread of this virus and save lives. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to everyone who has been affected already and remind you that the Chamber will be here to assist in any way we can.
Chamber has also appointed a new Chief Executive to lead our team and support our members throughout this crisis. Paul Clancy is an immensely experienced and impressive business leader with over 20 years’ experience in leadership and management positions, and we are pleased to have his expertise and competencies on board as we navigate this emergency.
The North West business community is resilient, however, and filled with compassionate and selfless people working hard to offset the worst excesses of this virus. I’ve seen first-hand over the past few weeks how this crisis is devastating local firms. But I’ve also seen businesses pulling together for the greater good of the local economy. Restaurants have donated meals to local care homes, shops are delivering vital supplies to elderly people stuck in their homes, and companies are offering their products, services and even vehicles to frontline workers who are leading the fight against this virus.
This will have a huge impact on our daily lives and on how we do business. But everyone can and must play their part to help stop its spread. Incredibly simple measures like social distancing, regular hand washing, and self-isolating are the weapons which we will need to beat this disease and protect our communities. Adapt your business operations as much as possible by encouraging remote working and keep communication up through phone and video conferencing.
Chamber will be here throughout this crisis, available and accessible to support and provide advice to our members. We are working hard to secure assurances and financial packages for businesses and workers. Grants, loans and cash injections are welcome and necessary measures, but these need to be released as soon as possible. Protecting the livelihoods of employees should be the number one concern of everyone, and the Chancellor’s announcements of both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme will help ease the concerns of thousands of workers.
This is an enormous challenge for everyone in our society. Through collaboration, co-operation, adhering to the expert advice of medical professionals, and a collective coming together across the North West, we can get through this crisis.
Stay safe and healthy.
President, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce