Claremorris Chamber active in attracting new business to town
By Toni Bourke
Claremorris has the highest number of vacant commercial premises of any town in Mayo, according to figures released this week, but local Chamber of Commerce president Jimmy Flynn says the chamber has a number of policies it is pursuing to combat this problem.
Eighteen per cent of commercial premises in Claremorris are empty, that is seven per cent more than the national average.
And while the local chamber does not dispute these figures it says it is partly due to an overstock of buildings during boom times.
One chamber policy which received some positive news last week was the efforts in connecting the traditional part of the town with the newer development at Silverbridge.
The chamber engaged with NAMA and presented the agency its own plans and NAMA has now agreed to fund remedial works which involve taking down the wooden partition at Silverbridge and which will create a visual and physical link between the traditional and new parts of the town, according to Mr Flynn.
The project involves landscaping the plaza to the front of the unfinished building, laying new public footpaths from the Knock road / Kilcolman road junction into the shopping and car parking areas, and putting new hoarding immediately around the unfinished building. The vacant house and old timber hoarding are being taken down. The public will have access through the plaza area which is currently off-limits. And all of the work should be fully finished in time for Christmas.
The chamber, in conjunction with Ballinrobe, is lobbying Mayo County Council to revisit the carparking bye-laws in the two towns. “There are six towns in Mayo, six sets of rules, six different charges, but just one county,” Mr Flynn explained to the Mayo Advertiser.
The chamber president insisted that the process of charging for street parking cannot continue when you have an out of town centre with free parking. “That creates a competitive advantage for the out of town centre,” he explained.
In essence the chamber is striving to stop the hollowing out of the town centres — a problem which exists right across the country.
A third issue the chamber is pursuing is business creation, especially in the town centre. According to Mr Flynn it is imperative that incentives are given to people to set up town centre businesses. He used the example of the German Mamas and Papas type businesses, husband and wife entrepreneurs, where the government has unshackled conditions and allowed these small business to operate, thus contributing to the local economy and the exchequer.
The Claremorris chamber president is taking a glass half full approach and they are actively lobbying the IDA and their own Diaspora to look at Claremorris as a business base. The necessary infrastructure of gas, power, and broadband is in place and what the chamber members are looking for is the IDA to cluster relevant businesses around CBE and DeCare which are already operational in the area.