12 Oct

Dublin Chamber of Commerce President’s Annual Dinner Speech – Greg Clarke

At the 2015 Dublin Chamber of Commerce annual dinner were: Greg Clarke, president of the chamber, Bernard Byrne, chief executive of AIB, Gina Quin, chief executive of the chamber and Jo Malone, the perfume entrepreneur. Photograph: Conor McCabe Photography


“It’s been a Great Year… For me within Chamber, on the road and in my business.

And it’s also been a great year for Dublin, and for Ireland …

Tonight on my left: the 6 Nations Trophy and to my even greater joy the Sam Maguire back safely to the Dubs! So we are in good Company …

And our companies and country are doing better than they have been for many years.

Private sector has put over 130,000 people back to work since our employment low point

We’ve grown our economy faster than any other European Union country.

We’ve cut our deficit faster than any other European Union country.

And, we’ve cut our debt faster than any other European Union country.

Yet we’re not in the shape we should be yet, but we can get there.

Let’s first welcome  An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, our Guest Speaker Jo Malone, and of course distinguished Guests. We are represented here tonight by all sectors including the Professional Services, Finance, Born on the Internet, Food Sector, Retail, Education, Telecoms and of course the many SMEs in the Room tonight and again I want to welcome you all.

Over the last few days as I considered my thoughts for tonight’s speech… many ideas came to mind but I felt it best to speak to you using my approach to coaching sports and my prep for cycling …
And that is the concept of Fit, Fast and Strong.  If we apply this thinking to our City and Businesses … what’s the outcome?

As a City are we fit, fit for purpose?

Just over 100 years ago, 13% of the world’s population lived in Cities, today 54% do and by 2030 70% will. So with this massive shift to city living, the question is what City will our children choose to live in? Will it be Dublin, or London, or Barcelona? I for one want to ensure my teenagers who are here tonight not only call Dublin their home but want to make it their home.

So to that point do we have a Strategic Plan for our City? With the resources to make things happen with a logical leader who will join the dots?

It appears not and this is why we as a Chamber are calling for a plan out to 2065 with 5 year milestones.

In Business are we fit? 

I find it interesting that up until a business trip to the US I considered myself a business owner but over there I was called a Founder, and then approximately 2 years ago I found myself described as an entrepreneur, which I naturally liked as it sounds sophisticated!

Today, the term Entrepreneur has gone mainstream. In fact 2015  appears to me to be the Year of the Entrepreneur.   We need to encourage more entrepreneurs, more start ups … they create jobs and wealth. Two thirds of new jobs come from start ups. The Entrepreneurial mind-set is one of optimism, hard working ethos, Doers that make things happen. Not afraid of risk or failure…

Last year alone we had over 20,000 people start new businesses

According to the Central Bank, younger firms are the largest contributors of new jobs due to the inverse relationship between growth and size.
So we must incentivise this Entrepreneurial behaviour and activity …  back these brave individuals …these job creators

I believe we need an entrepreneurial Flagship Policy that sends out the same message as our 12.5% Corporation Tax Rate. Just like David Cameron said he was ‘rolling out the red carpet for business’ we must do the same Taoiseach.  I think reducing the Capital Gains Tax from 33% to the 10% for entrepreneurs as in the UK would be an excellent first step.

But we need to do this as part of Budget 2016 so we do not lose any more momentum to the UK.

Next is our city Fast?

Well in 1971 the Dart Underground was first mooted, the 2nd Source of water for Dublin in 1996, the waste to energy in 1997 and the Children’s Hospital in 1993.

So it is clear we are not Fast! And I know in my World as I am sure in yours that if you know, really really know, that something is fundamental to your success – you will focus and make it happen, somehow. No action has social and economic effects.

And in terms of Housing I want to say 2 things –   Firstly Employers are increasingly worried about where their workforce are going to live and how much they have to pay to live.

In the Greater Dublin Area about 8,000 houses a year are needed; at present we are building less than half this number.

And secondly in terms of social housing we see a critical and immediate need … we clearly do not have the appropriate supports to cope with our homelessness in Dublin and it is unprecedented. I support the call of the Chamber’s charity of year Peter McVerry Trust to see quick delivery of the modular home solution. But we need to also address the housing problem to help those that want to work here but no place to stay. The impact is social and economic.

Hopefully this can be achieved quickly. We need to make sure that Dublin can act quickly in this and the other issues. As a Chamber we’ve a responsibility to continually play our part and keep focus on what this City needs to succeed.

We need joined up thinking and improved coordination by our leaders.

Is business Fast?

Are we nimble and able to scale businesses quickly?

Well, two-thirds of businesses are stuck and never go past having 10 staff…

I remember vividly in early days Digicom the concern and angst over taking on employee number 2 and the 3 and then 4 and then 5 etc. It is a very difficult time and delicate time for all fledgeling businesses.

So why are their additional tax barriers to hiring and growing businesses? If we remove the employers PRSI for new hires in small businesses we can grow companies, grow jobs and – yes – grow the overall tax take!

Finally, are we strong as a City?

Well the good news is that we now have our M50, our Terminal 2, our Port Tunnel, our Cross City Luas line and of course this lovely Convention Centre.

All very positive pieces of necessary infrastructure! But, they are all nearing capacity already.
So the question is, do we have the social and physical infrastructures in place to see our City into the future. The answer is no unfortunately.

We will have 400,000 extra people living in Dublin by 2030 and the lowest capital investment per capita of any region in Ireland is Dublin! Fact!

We must triple our investment to build the infrastructure needed for strength. Doing this by the way only will help us keep pace with our neighbours in the UK and other cities around the globe!
Last week’s announced capital programme offers hope that there is an appreciation of the need to invest. But the time frames still leave me worried for such strategic projects are 20 to 30 years away.

Is business strong?

We’ve a strong business community but often we don’t see those businesses growing to the global scale that they could achieve.

We need to remain ambitious, with a strong entrepreneurial mind-set and work harder to make business grow, Growth in business means jobs …

Here is the double benefit of the Capital Gain Tax change I mentioned that would help startups, if we do this right we’ll get successful business owners to re-invest in another Irish business and help mentor the next generation. As a business community, we can make a difference for each other and for the people of Ireland.

To conclude

A lot of the ingredients are finally coming together …

Our city is a lot fitter …

And of course let’s not forget that Dublin’s culture is absolutely unique and It is what gives this City its Character and it’s distinctive identity in our Globalised World.

Dublin is providing over half of the total tax revenue and the place of work for more than 2 in 5 workers in Ireland.

But It is clear we are not fast and this must be addressed – faster decisions, faster actions with regards our infrastructure improvements, education, health systems and business support structures are required….in order to continue the momentum.

We may be strong now in 2015, but have we invested enough so We will be strong in 2020 and 2025 and 2030?

I am not so sure.

Over the coming months we will be faced with a General Election, so we need to pick the partners for our Team!

This is probably the most important Election in the last 25 years. Will these partners make the Strategic Plan happen, create a Flagship policy to demonstrate we are pro business and pro small business, will they make the long term decisions necessary for our future and our kids and their kids future.

That decision is in our hands by encouraging everyone we know to exercise their right and get out and vote!

The narrative for 2016 should not just be about remembering our Forefathers and their bravery but capturing the spirit of hope and willingness to do …

And as your President I am asking us all to take action so that tomorrow can be better than today.”

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