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25 trade associations and chambers come under one roof to help companies grow

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 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.

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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 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 S$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.