BALLYCLARE Chamber of Trade has appointed its first woman president in its 20 year history.
Alison Thompson, owner of The Beautician salon and day spa, succeeded Darren Black as president at the chamber’s annual general meeting last week.
Alison said she would use her time as president to build on the progress of the organisation and work to bring more of the town’s business community together.
She told the Times: “I want to add a bit of fun to the role. We will still be focussing on lobbying councillors and the Assembly on work that needs done in the town, but I also want to build on the community aspect of the chamber and bring more people in.
“We have introduced a scheme were once a business opens in the town they are automatic members of the chamber, rather than them having to join as it was in the past.
“In the past people maybe thought it was more of a clique, or if you joined you would be given a job, but it’s not like that at all. There is a community ethos behind everything we do and all we ask of people is that they help promote every business in the town and if they want to play more of a role in running the organisation then they can, but it certainly won’t be forced on them.
“We want to promote the town as a centre for business and to do that we want everyone to come on board and to play a part in what ever way they can.
“And that is important, especially in the current business climate, that we come together and focus our attentions as a united voice.”
She continued: “I’ve worked in the town for the past six years. Before that I was a sales manager and with that experience and my business degree I want to work on promoting and marketing the town as a place to shop - that’s where my strengths lie.
“Over the past two years we relaunched our website and used social media to help promote the work of the chamber and the businesses of the town and I want to continue to grow that engagement.
“There are people who have been in business in Ballyclare for a long time and may not be aware of how the likes of social networking can help them and that is something that I, along with the chamber, can help them with.
“Often people would say the chamber doesn’t do anything but when you are working with government it can be slow to get things done.
“So we will be looking at getting things done around the town, whether that is painting buildings or planting tress, just to show that we are always looking for opportunities to give the town a boost as well as continuing the hard work of lobbying representatives and getting long term investment into the town.”
On being the first lady president of the organisation, Alison said: “It had to be someone at some stage and I just thought why not me.
“It’s not really a big deal, I will give it my all and work for the best of everyone.
“And as another aspect of my role I want to highlight and promote the work of women in business. Sometimes their efforts are missed and I would to encourage more women to take an active role both in business and in the Cahmber of Trade.
Alison also paid tribute to out-going president Darren Black who was in the role for the past two years.
She added: “Darren has worked well over the past two years to the benefit of the town.
“He has achieved a lot and started off consultations on bringing free-parking into The Square as well as playing a key role in the town centre regeneration works.”
Out-going president Darren Black thanked everyone involved with the chamber for their support over the past two years.
He said: “I am pleased and proud of the contribution I have made to Ballyclare and would very much like to thank everyone for the support I was given, especially from Niall McConkey and Brendan Tweed.
“There was an awful lot more that I would liked to have influenced during my time as president, but I am sure that Alison can continue the good work of the chamber and I will assist her as best I can.
“I am excited about the future for the town, especially given the large representation and mix of businesses that attended the AGM. This gives a clear sign that there are many traders in the town willing to work together to see it prosper.
“I will remain involved with the chamber as past president, but I’m more than happy to take a back seat and hopefully go back to opening the local papers without fear of being in them.”
Also this year David Reade has been appointed vice president of the chamber. He runs the wedding and outdoor pursuits venue Breckenhill Limited.
He added: “There are big battles ahead in terms of parking charges, rates and renovation, but we will also be focusing on the important services the chamber can provide for businesses and it’s about striking a balance between those factors.”