Barcelona’s Chamber of Commerce “reinvents” itself and “leads the transformation” of these institutions in Spain
The President of Barcelona’s Chamber of Commerce hopes others will join them by adopting a model that combines both public and private cooperation to offer companies new services such as a fund of €2 billion for loans or access to a world network of 1,500 chambers of commerce. With this new model, the Chamber wants to leave the past two years of budget cuts behind, focus on the future, be more useful to its members and offer added value services.
Barcelona (ACN).- Barcelona\u2019s Chamber of Commerce is going through a process of \u201Creinvention\u201D. The President of the Catalan institution, Miquel Valls, explained on Wednesday at a press conference held in Barcelona that this new stage would focus on providing different services to the 250,000 registered companies that are Chamber members. The new project aims to create the Chamber Club, a business platform that will allow access to \u20AC2 billion for loans and to a network of 1,500 chambers of commerce around the world. Valls recalled the \u201Csacrifices\u201D the institution had to face due to the loss of the chamber\u2019s obligatory fees for SME companies, their main means of funding. However, he assured that the organisation is ready \u201Cfor market integration\u201D and \u201Cwants to lead the change in the Spanish chambers of commerce\u201D.
The President of Barcelona\u2019s Chamber of Commerce, Miquel Valls, spoke at the press conference about the reasons that have led to the entity\u2019s changes. The abolishment of the obligatory chamber fees -which all SME companies in Barcelona were obliged to pay but now only the larger ones-, signed into law on December 2010, meant a drastic reduction of the organisation\u2019s budget. It dropped from \u20AC34 million to \u20AC25 million between 2010 and 2011. This was translated into a 40% reduction in staff numbers. SME companies do not need to pay the mandatory fees in 2012, whereas companies who bill more than \u20AC10 million are still obliged to pay.
\u201CThese are hard challenges but we are excited about the reinvention. Once we overcome the effort of adapting to the new circumstances, the Chamber will maintain its aim of defending the interests of its representatives\u201D, explained Valls. \u201CWe must now prepare for the future\u201D, he assured, \u201Cfor this is an institution that will last for many years, adjusting itself to the economic situation and with a very important role for companies\u201D.
The new chamber model \u201Cis not clearly defined\u201D, according to Valls. The situation in the country is halfway between the European model, with public funding, and the American model, with greater weight for the private sector. The President of the Chamber referred to the \u201Cmanagement orders\u201D initiative by public administrations such as the Catalan Government, presented in 2011. The initiative consists of the outsourcing of services usually provided by public entities.
Chamber Club: regular services plus loans and aid for internationalisation
Barcelona\u2019s Chamber of Commerce will create the Chamber Club, a business platform for the 250,000 associated companies. According to Valls, the project aims to foster economic and business activity, as well as internationalisation, competitiveness and training through product and support services to companies and the self-employed.
The Managing Director of the Chamber, Xavier Carbonell explained that the new Club is divided into three pillars. There is a need to provide \u201Cadded value\u201D to the traditional services offered by the Chambers through initiatives to facilitate the creation of companies, and training and support to their growth and internationalisation.
Carbonell also mentioned the agreements with \u201Cpartner organisations\u201D, such as \u2018La Caixa\u2019, Fira de Barcelona and Turisme de Barcelona. Carbonell highlighted the agreement the Chamber signed with the Catalan savings bank \u2018La Caixa\u2019, the first company that supported the Chamber at this new stage, and that will allow for access to a fund of \u20AC2 billion for loans, aside from the Chamber Club Visa Card. La Caixa\u2019s President, Isidre Fainé, presented the agreement.
Another element of the plan focuses on the creation of a business community. The concept includes access to a network of 1,500 chambers of commerce from all around the world, present in 180 countries, and the creation of a virtual network for companies.
A model for other chambers to follow
Valls also stressed that the Chamber of Commerce of Barcelona \u201Cwants to lead the change in the Spanish chambers of commerce with a model based on cooperation with public administrations, but also with big companies\u201D. The president of the institution stated that \u201Cthis is the Barcelona Chambers model, but is open to other Catalan chambers and I hope this is the model they choose to follow\u201D, and he added that he respects \u201Cthat other Spanish chambers prefer to follow another model\u201D.