The restored Outer Hebrides Chamber of Commerce was launched on Thursday November 28th in the refurbished Willow Room at the Caberfeidh Hotel.
More than 30 people were involved in a largely informal evening with a buffet supper and plenty of opportunities to network and meet fellow business owners.
The event was introduced by John Moffat, a local accountant who is chairing the new Chamber, and who spoke of the benefits of getting local businesses together.
Lynne Maciver, who has driven the setting up of the Chamber and is the chief executive, spoke of the support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and from other Chambers to get the organisation set up. Lots of businesses had commented that they felt they would benefit from being able to talk to and link up with other local firms, she added.
Rachel Mackenzie, area manager for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, spoke of the determination which Lynne Maciver had shown in setting up the Chamber – and how the area would benefit from having a voice to put forward business views to the Government which sought the opinion of local chambers of commerce rather than the views of individual businessmen. This is particularly true of the Developing The Young Workforce initiative.
Stuart Beaufoy, the business development manager for Cala Hotels, spoke of the role of the hotel firm in the local economy including expansion of the facilities for business in the hotel group. He also spoke of the growth of the tourism sector – from 2014, it was £54m; three years later that had risen to £65m; and in 2020 it should rise again to £74m. He emphasised how the islands had to compete with other venues throughout the UK. He explained how the company was developing improved training for its workforce.
Stewart Nicol, the chief executive of the Inverness Chamber of Commerce said the establishment of the Chamber was a significant step, not just for businesses in the islands, but also the wider Highlands and Islands business community. Inverness Chamber of Commerce is now 126 years old and was delighted to be able to assist the newest member of the chamber family. Its international trade team has provided invaluable support to the new organisation, allowing businesses to grow by taking advantage of export opportunities and offering guidance on regulations governing overseas trade.
The new chamber is also now part of the Highlands and Islands Export Partnership, which provides SMEs across the region with increased opportunities for their goods and services, and Open 4 Business Highlands and Islands. It's also part of the wider Chambers of Commerce Network in the UK and internationally.