SINGAPORE - More than 20 trade associations are set to collaborate more closely in the national push to grow companies and help them venture overseas, with the launch of the new Trade Association Hub in Jurong on Wednesday (Nov 22) morning.
The refurbished space, which was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, contains shared facilities that associations can use to reduce operating costs, including meeting and training areas available on a pay-per-use basis.
At the opening ceremony, PM Lee said the hub is "not just a brick and mortar space".
"It will also help build a stronger TAC (Trade Association and Chambers) community, and cultivate a culture of mutual support and collaboration," he said.
The 25 tenants that moved in earlier this year include anchor tenant Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI), the Singapore Food Manufacturers' Association (SFMA) and Kranji Countryside Association (KCA). The hub was mooted by the SCCCI in 2014.
Mr Thomas Pek, president of SFMA, said moving operations from their headquarters in Chinatown to the TA Hub in Jurong has helped the association, which has more than 400 members including brands like Bee Cheng Hiang, to source for new technological solutions.
For example, they were able to partner another tenant at the hub, the Landscape Industry Association (Singapore), to sign a Memorandum of Understanding two months ago with the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore. They will explore how they can share technologies for converting waste into compost and recycling by-products.
"We also hope to look for new overseas markets or business partners when the TA Hub hosts trade exhibitions or foreign visitors," he said.
In his speech, PM Lee underlined the important role that the more than 300 TACs in Singapore play. They are "aggregators and multipliers" in the business eco-system, he said.
"You are close to the companies, and understand the needs of your industries well. You support Small and Medium Enterprises to overcome the limitations of size by working together, and doing things that would otherwise be difficult for a single company to do alone."
He added that he hoped to see TACs work together to help Singapore companies venture overseas, and expand their global footprint.
The SCCCI represents 40,000 firms of different sizes here. Besides working with the Government to encourage the adoption of various economic schemes, TACs under its fold have also flagged concerns about business operations to the authorities, such as compliance costs from regulatory requirements.
The TA Hub occupies the premises of the 43-year-old Jurong Town Hall building, which was gazetted a national monument in 2015.
It was formerly the headquarters of the Jurong Town Corporation, and was renamed the iHUB in 2004, serving as an office space for local technology start-up companies.
Restoration works in the Jurong Town Hall building started in early 2016 and were completed early this year. The building, which has six levels, has 7,500 sq m of space for trade association offices and almost 5,000 sq m of shared facilities. About half of the space for offices has been occupied, and rental rates are $32 per sq m.
Besides the new hub, the SCCCI will also lead a Trade Association Committee, which includes members from 12 other trade associations and chambers.
It hopes to drive the development of TACs so that they can better work with their members to address industry challenges.
Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, who will be an adviser to the committee, also unveiled the Trade Associations and Chambers Transformation Map at the SCCCI's fifth Trade Association Congress on Wednesday.
The blueprint lays out plans to build up a talent pipeline for TAC secretariat staff by introducing internships, boosting professional development and the productivity of TACs, as well as better facilitate collaborations between the different TACs.
Mr Kenny Eng, president of the KCA, said that access to professional secretariat services has helped relieve volunteers of tasks such as taking meeting minutes and sorting out finances.
SCCCI has also helped them to navigate the unfamiliar landscape of TACs, and link them up with other associations facing similar challenges.
"We have been studying how public transport arrangements to the Kranji countryside can be made, and SCCCI has arranged a meeting with associations with members in the same area next week to discuss challenges."