Chamber officers forge link across the Border


An unusual and promising cross-Border link has been forged by chamber of commerce officers from two urban centres.

A delegation from the Waterford chamber has just returned from a visit to Portadown where it was welcomed at last month's local chamber meeting. This visit is expected to be followed soon by a reciprocal visit to Waterford by members of the Portadown chamber, and there are hopes that a long-term link-up will evolve, according to the Waterford chamber's chief executive, Mr Frank O'Donoghue.

Four members of the Waterford chamber spoke at the Portadown meeting and outlined the issues and projects which are on the agenda in the capital of the south-east. There are substantial differences of scale and resources between the two organisations, but they found similar features in many issues which concern them.

The Portadown chamber is much smaller, with just under 70 members, compared to Waterford's 500 members from 350 firms. The long-established Waterford chamber, with its historic premises and full-time staff, has developed into an influential voice on regional issues.

However, Portadown, like Waterford, is concerned with traffic issues and with the arrival of large multiple stores. The Northern town is in the early stages of a new computerised traffic system, a development which some traders see as affecting their customer flow.

Waterford is preoccupied with the need for a second bridge over the Suir. With the Bann splitting Portadown, that town also requires another bridge to ease congestion.

Since the ceasefire, the Portadown chamber has been trying to brighten up the image of the town and is urging people from other areas to shop there.

Both chambers share the problem of high unemployment and of having to campaign so that adequate funds are given by central government for infrastructural development in their regions.

The initial contact between the chambers was established through Co-operation North, and the meeting was extremely cordial. The Southern delegation presented the Portadown chamber president, Mr James McCammick, with Waterford crystal to mark the occasion.

The visit received extensive coverage in the Portadown Times, which headlined its story: "It's crystal clear that Waterford chamber is sparkling with life."

The Waterford delegation included Ms Mary Dorgan, past president and first woman president of the chamber, who said they were keen to form a permanent link with Portadown.

The other Waterford delegates were the chamber president and general manager of Waterford Port, Mr John Clancy; the deputy president, Mr William O'Brien; and Mr O'Donoghue.