Black says 'no hiding from issues'
McAreavey confirmed as Chamber tackles ‘difficulties’
CEO to boost membership
Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce today confirmed Liz McAreavey as chief executive and pledged to rebuild its balance sheet after what was described as a “difficult year.”
The chamber reported a deficit of £76,423 and had been forced to renegotiate its overdraft with the bank.
This had delayed the annual general meeting where president Scott Black laid bare the problems of the past year and the measures being taken to put the Chamber on an even keel.
“We recognise the challenges we face and no one is hiding from the issues,” he told members. “There is a plan in place to sort it out.”
He thanked Ms McAreavey for doing “an excellent job in stepping up to the plate” in an acting role “at a difficult time” and said that after six months he was delighted to confirm her appointment.
“It has not been straightforward to navigate through some of the changes we have had to make,” he said.
“What became abundantly clear is that we have required re-focusing and re-charging of our batteries.”
He said the Chamber’s 230th anniversary year celebration had been “overshadowed by remedial work.” He added: “That is disappointing as the Chamber has done some great work for the city, but some things have gone awry which we are addressing.”
Mr Black noted that the Chamber organised 140 events during the year which was a “staggering” reflection on the good work it has done.
He thanked Royal Bank of Scotland “for being particularly supportive over the past year.”
He said: “We have been hugely appreciative of the way you have dealt with us. If that is the way you deal with other people it is truly fantastic.”
He also thanked John Watson, commercial director of Edinburgh airport, for his “outstanding contribution” to helping the Chamber.
Ms McAreavey said she would embark on a membership drive to boost the current 1,000, and was gaining 19 subscriptions a month, against a target of 26. It was pointed out that with a retention rate of 78%, the loss of members was to some degree countering those gained, and she acknowledged the need to work on retaining more members.
She accepted that the Chamber had been “too reliant on contracts” to drive income.
“There are 17,500 businesses in Edinburgh so we have a lot to go at,” she said, adding that there would be a greater focus on communication with these potential subscribers and with the existing membership.
She has already shaken up the organisational structure and introduced new members to the 22-strong team.
The Chamber is working with the city council on the City Deal and is helping to raise the profile of Edinburgh to a wider community, she said.
Brian Scouler, treasurer, said the Chamber had always operated at a surplus.
“We have been hit with legacy issues, unexpected bills and contract matters,” he said.
The agm was delayed over the bank signing off the overdraft agreement. “There was a risk we would be in excess of the banking facility. The bank agreed to extend the facility into 2017 which gives us some comfort.”
He said it now had a £250,000 overdraft of which £100,000 had been drawn and the Chamber is on track to repay it.
“Hopefully this year we will have a small surplus,” he said.