SHANNON Chamber has selected former chief executive of Shannon Development, Kevin Thompstone, as its new president.
He succeeds Damian Gleeson of Grant Thornton, who held the position for two years.
Mr Thompstone said he was honoured to take up the position and when he spoke to the Clare Champion on Tuesday he acknowledged that it’s a difficult time for some of the Chamber’s members.
“It’s not unique to this region or unique to Ireland but we’re in the middle of a pretty deep economic crisis that’s effecting nearly every part of the world. That’s just the reality of business life at the moment but having said that, Shannon Chamber has a good cross-section of members across industrial sectors and people are making a good fist of things. It’s the nature of business, you have an upward cycle and a downward cycle and we just happen to be in one of the trough periods at the moment.”
Mr Thompstone lives locally and he left his job in Shannon Development in 2008.
Following that, he established his own business that has brought him to various parts of the world since.
“What I do is operate as an economic development consultant in different parts of the world drawing on the experience that I built up with Shannon Development over almost 25 years.
“There are people and places around the world who need to find solutions for economic growth. For example, in Armenia, I’ve done a couple of projects on developing a technology park and techno-city in their second city, Gyumri.
“I’ve worked with the Ugandan investment authority on helping them set up a new industrial park in their capital city. I’ve worked in the United Arab Emirates on technology park investment promotion projects, so it’s essentially using the experience that I have in everything from Free Zone Development to technology park development to provide a guiding hand.”
The separation of Shannon Airport from the DAA and the creation of a new authority combining the property portfolio of Shannon Development means it’s a time of change, and Mr Thompstone is quite positive about the outlook.
“It’s a time of significant change for Shannon and I would have argued for many years that Shannon would have had a better chance of success being independent rather than being part of a larger group. It’s good to see that decision has finally been taken.
“The decision to merge Shannon Development and Shannon Airport was taken just before Christmas so I would say that the important thing there is that merging two organisations is a difficult task at the best of times and the important thing is that it is done with clarity of purpose, that there is sensitivity around all the people involved and that is done decisively.
“I would feel that Shannon has a bright future, it won’t be easy but with Shannon having its destiny in its own hands, there has to be good prospects for the future.”
Even with high unemployment and major challenges, things are still going well for some Shannon businesses, he added.
“I would always be a glass half full type of person and what I would see first of all that if you take somewhere like the Shannon Free Zone, where a lot of the Chamber members come from, they are generating about four billion euro in exports every year so that’s fairly significant.
“The export sector has been good, Shannon has a cross section of sectors, there’s aviation, financial services, engineering, software, so Shannon is pretty resilient in that context.
“Obviously, the domestic economy has been much more difficult. The retail sector across Ireland has suffered and Shannon is no different there. I would be hopeful that with all of the correction that has been done within the economy, we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“When we emerge from that tunnel is hard to say but I’ve no doubt that we will and sometimes you have to go through a lot of difficulty to create an opportunity for yourself at the other end. What Ireland is doing at the moment is creating a solid foundation from which to move forward into the future.”
On his new position, he says, “We’ve a very good chief executive in Helen Downes who has grown the Chamber significantly over the last few years. My role would be to provide strategic guidance, practical guidance and support to Helen and the team and also to work with the other board members and to provide clarity of purpose.”
Shannon Chamber’s chief executive, Helen Downes, welcomed him to the board.
“It’s a perfect time to bring someone as dynamic and innovative as Mr Thompstone into the fold. He has been an active member of the Chamber for the past few years. His experience in corporate leadership, strategic planning and the delivery of a complex range of projects and investment transactions will inject a new dynamic into the Chamber’s undertakings at a critical time for Shannon.”
Mr Thompstone joins a board that includes; Shannon Chamber board which comprises: Damian Gleeson, Grant Thornton; Edmund Jennings, the Cregg Group; Ian Barrett, TTM Healthcare; David Brown, Idex Pumps; Mark Nolan, Dromoland Castle Hotel; Mary Considine, Shannon Airport Authority; Adrian Furey, Zimmer Orthopedics; Nandi O’Sullivan, Shannon Development; Brian Lohan, Lohan Auctioneers; Patsy Hanrahan, Grant Thornton; Eoin Hoctor, McLoughneys Newsagency; Stephen Keogh, FB Keating & Co Solicitors and Helen Downes, chief executive, Shannon Chamber.