MINISTER for Enterprise Richard Bruton has backed the Ennis Development Forum and Ennis Chamber in their bid to bring the county out of recession.
The minister met with representatives of both groups at the Temple Gate Hotel and following the meeting he said, “There is a great energy there. They want to Create the Magic and make Clare a welcoming county and that’s a real positive. It’s great to see confidence and energy.”
The meeting saw members of both the chamber and the forum discuss the issues affecting enterprise within the county along with highlighting the initiatives being undertaken in Ennis to stimulate the economy.
These include the recently launched Create the Magic project in which 20 retailers have undertaken customer service workshops in a bid to become the friendliest town in Ireland.
Minister Bruton described the meeting as a “worthwhile discussion” saying, “I think there are some really positive initiatives and I think we had a very useful discussion about areas of opportunity that are perhaps being held back by systems that don’t respond quickly enough.”
The minister insisted it is small business, like those throughout Ennis and the rest of the county, that will get Ireland out of recession. He believes the Ennis model is something that could be utilised in towns and cities across the country. “In relation to the Create the Magic idea, which has brought 20 businesses together, that could be brought to different areas. I think the challenge for a government, which will be short of money will be to prime the pump of that activity. I think these type of initiatives are going to be vital and the solution to the jobs crisis is going to be by small business. 90% of jobs are in small business and 90% of new jobs created will come from small business. Of course, the big foreign company announcements are tremendously welcome and important but the meat and drink of resolving our economic crisis is going to come from smaller businesses and that’s where we have to concentrate,” he said.
The meeting with Minister Bruton was organised by the Fine Gael TDs in Clare Joe Carey and Pat Breen following discussions between the Development Forum, Ennis Chamber and all four recently elected TDs last month.
Ennis Chamber CEO Rita McInerney and President John Dillane raised concerns in relation to the cost of doing business and the retention/creation of jobs.
Speaking to us following the meeting, Mr Dillane commented, “As a business community, we feel there are loads of opportunities in Clare. We’re not looking for handouts, we’re saying get down the barriers. We have two huge potential job creators in County Clare. The deep sea port being mooted at the moment is a practical idea that is ready to go. And there is great potential in wind energy, with an estimated 7,000 jobs being talked about. Each of those jobs creates seven of another, so that sorts out the unemployment problem in Clare. The minister was very open and generous with his time, he is pro-enterprise and pro-business and I think he is going back with a message,” he said. The Chamber also urged a review of commercial rates, a reduction of bureaucracy for businesses as well as the need to support new developments in the county.
Brian O’Neill of the Rowan Tree Hostel commended the Government’s review of the Joint Labour Committees in relation to the hospitality industry and the need to incentivise people to work while Martin White of AAA Taxis promoted the idea of buy-back for taxis, the development of Triangle of Clare Tourism Routes and the need to support Shannon Airport.
Aoife Madden, chairperson of Ennis Development Forum explained the Create the Magic Customer Service Initiative for County Clare. Through workshops and collaboration, a pilot group of businesses are setting about making Clare Ireland’s friendliest town.
“We’re trying to be positive here in Ennis. We’re doing everything we can on the ground to become Ireland’s friendliest town and get this county out of recession but in order to do that in the bigger scheme, we need Government to look at rents and other things that are out of our control. The minister said any issues we have brought up with him that are not in his remit, he will speak to the minister in question. I can see more ministers coming down in the future on the foot of this,” she commented.
Councillor Johnny Flynn profiled the concept of developing Clare as the low-carbon county through promotion of the Mid-West Corridor as the Centre for Renewable Energy given the resources that already exist in the county such as connection to the national grid and location for wind/hydro power. Revitalising the construction industry was outlined by Michael Leahy of Leahy Conway Architects through introducing grants and streamlining the planning system.
At the meeting, Minister Bruton went on to respond to the issues raised by drawing attention to the review of the JLC’s and Upward Only Rent Reviews as well as highlighting the Government’s commitment to the €100 million fund for micro businesses and the extension of the Loan Guarantee Scheme. The minister agreed that people must be incentivised to work though changes to the Social Welfare system and promotion of existing PRSI rebates for businesses. Minister Bruton also recognised the strategic importance of Foreshore Licensing and also referred to his preference that cost saving by local authorities be passed on to businesses through reductions in commercial rates. Finally, the minister invited the chamber and the forum to submit specific examples of how changes can be made to existing regulations to remove barriers and reduce the cost of doing business. In thanking the minister for the meeting, Mr Dillane welcomed this invitation to which the group will be making a submission to the Minister for Enterprise Department.
In closing the meeting, TD Joe Carey thanked Richard Bruton for the visit to County Clare and encouraged him to stay in contact with this representative group on the initiatives they are undertaking. Pat Breen, TD recognised the meeting highlighted the assets County Clare has to offer and is looking forward to how the upcoming Stimulus Budget can assist businesses.