Barcelona (ACN).- Barcelona’s Chamber of Commerce is going through a process of “reinvention”. 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 €2 billion for loans and to a network of 1,500 chambers of commerce around the world. Valls recalled the “sacrifices” the institution had to face due to the loss of the chamber’s obligatory fees for SME companies, their main means of funding. However, he assured that the organisation is ready “for market integration” and “wants to lead the change in the Spanish chambers of commerce”.
The President of Barcelona’s Chamber of Commerce, Miquel Valls, spoke at the press conference about the reasons that have led to the entity’s 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’s budget. It dropped from €34 million to €25 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 €10 million are still obliged to pay.
“These 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”, explained Valls. “We must now prepare for the future”, he assured, “for this is an institution that will last for many years, adjusting itself to the economic situation and with a very important role for companies”.
The new chamber model “is not clearly defined”, 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 “management orders” 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’s 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 “added value” 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 “partner organisations”, such as ‘La Caixa’, Fira de Barcelona and Turisme de Barcelona. Carbonell highlighted the agreement the Chamber signed with the Catalan savings bank ‘La Caixa’, the first company that supported the Chamber at this new stage, and that will allow for access to a fund of €2 billion for loans, aside from the Chamber Club Visa Card. La Caixa’s 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 “wants to lead the change in the Spanish chambers of commerce with a model based on cooperation with public administrations, but also with big companies”. The president of the institution stated that “this is the Barcelona Chambers model, but is open to other Catalan chambers and I hope this is the model they choose to follow”, and he added that he respects “that other Spanish chambers prefer to follow another model”.