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Buy Local, build prosperity

Buying locally produced and sold goods will stimulate the area’s economy and create jobs for the people of the district. This was the main message behind Thursday’s Buy Local public meeting. Chaired by Council Director Eddy Curtis the meeting heard representations from Mayor John McArdle, Newry City Centre Management Chairman Jack Murphy and Newry Chamber of Commerce President Cathal Austin before being thrown open to the floor. A sizable crowd many of them local businenss people and entrepreneurs listened to the speakers before engaging in a lively debate. Both Jack Murphy and Cathal Austin praised Newry’s entrepreneurial spirit and made much of the fact of the end result of a successful campaign would be more jobs for Newry and Mourne. Graham Finnegan, owner of Grounded Coffee Bars kicked off the suggestions from the audience. “I have seen other towns and cities do a Fiver Fest and it has huge benefits for them,” he said. “Basically one day a week or month people are encouraged to spend £5 in a locally owned business that they would normally spend in a large multinational or outside the town. Local businesses have deals for a fiver or it could be as simple as someone deciding to buy one or two small items in their local shop. Realistically you aren’t going to get people to stop shopping in these huge shops but if we could get people to make one small change it would make a huge difference. Given the population of Newry such a scheme would bring an extra £5.4m into the city centre.” A number of people highlighted the prohibited costs and time restrictions on parking in the city as having a negative effect on business. Kieran Lowry manager of Supervalu advocated a restructured parking scheme. “Many towns in England have had success with a Free After Three scheme,” he said. “Fairly simply parking is free after 3pm and towns that have introduced this have reported huge successes in stimulating the local economy. I think we also need to educate people and let them know when they spend their money in these big stores it doesn’t stay here, it goes off to a boardroom in London.” The thorny issue of rates was raised with a number with a number of those in attendance claiming that rates here are unusually high and strangling businesses. A number of online businesses also attended to attest to the importance of the internet in an increasingly online market. Other suggestions included using derelict or empty buildings as spaces for arts and crafts or training to improve the aesthetic of the high street and give it a busier more vibrant feel. Councillor Pat McGinn who originally proposed the Buy Local scheme in the council outlined why it was so important. “The reason I proposed this scheme was because of a photo I had with me and eight young lads from the area who had helped me set up the poc fada 15 years ago,” he said. “Every single one of the lads in the photo has now left the country, one of them my own son, because they saw no future here. This is not about shopping, it’s about services and building a prosperous area, somewhere where our children can stay and build a life because I know that there is not one family in this whole district who didn’t feel the same way I did last Christmas.


Newry Democrat

2nd April 2013