Trade associations come under one roof at new hub

Refurbished Jurong premises part of push to grow S'pore firms, help them venture abroad

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 (TA) Hub in Jurong yesterday 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 the Kranji Countryside Association (KCA). The hub was mooted by the SCCCI in 2014.

Mr Thomas Pek, president of the SFMA, said that moving its operations from its headquarters in Chinatown to the TA Hub in Jurong has helped the association, which has more than 400 members, including brands such as Bee Cheng Hiang, to source for new technological solutions.

For example, it was 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," said Mr Pek.

In his speech, PM Lee underlined the important role played by the more than 300 TACs in Singapore. 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.

Restoration works in the Jurong Town Hall building started early last year, 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.

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.

The SCCCI has also helped the association to navigate the unfamiliar landscape of TACs, and link it up with other associations facing similar challenges.

"We have been studying how public transport arrangements to the Kranji countryside can be made, and the SCCCI has arranged a meeting with associations with members in the same area next week to discuss this," said Mr Eng.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2017, with the headline 'Trade associations come under one roof at new hub'. Print Edition | Subscribe