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Town can ‘grow and evolve’

STRABANE’S town centre manager says she is hopeful that local businesses can bounce back from lockdown as well as “grow and evolve.”

Emma McGill, who is the town centre development manager for Strabane Business Improvement District (BID), was speaking ahead of a forthcoming ballot for the BID renewal which will take place later in the year.

Ms McGill says the BID will continue to help local businesses post-Covid and as such, the thrust of the BID’s second term would be shaped by an ongoing consultation process.

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“My hopes are that businesses can resume trading in confidence, welcome their customers back and that no further lockdowns are needed,” she said. “I also hope that Strabane town centre doesn’t lose many businesses as a result of the pandemic and that we can see life and vibrancy returning to the streets.

“Consumer confidence will be a big thing going forward and businesses can help to reassure their customers by applying for a Covid Reassurance Mark to give piece of mind that they have taken all the steps required to keep themselves safe. BID can assist them in that process.”

Following the past year’s series of lockdowns, Ms McGill says Strabane’s main strength going forward, is that it has a lot to offer.

“I am confident that the town centre can bounce back, grow and evolve,” she continued. “We have a unique selling point here in Strabane in that we are blessed with so many independent businesses offering unique products that you won’t find anywhere else. We also have a very strong core of businesses within the town providing vital services such as financial, legal and other professional services as well as a great hospitality sector.

“Strabane town centre has a lot to offer and I think now that people are in the mindset of shopping and supporting local it produces significant opportunities.

“There’s also the Strabane Regeneration Project as part of the City Deal which stands to revitalise and re-energise the town centre, this project will bring new people, new footfall and better connectivity so will be a major boost to our businesses.”

In the months ahead, the former Invest NI employee says Strabane BID will be working hard to assist businesses in their recovery from Covid as well as asking those businesses what they need from the BID.

The BID is a business-led initiative, supported by legislation, where businesses work together and invest collectively in local improvements to their business  environment.

Strabane BID is now in the final year of its first five-year mandate and the new ballot is being planned for September 23. The regulations stipulate that the ballot must be held prior to October 31.

“We are currently in a period of consultation with our levy paying businesses and it’s so important that we get their feedback to shape what a future Term Two BID will look like,” Ms McGill added.

“We appreciate that the trading environment has changed significantly, especially over the last year and it’s imperative that BID responds directly to our businesses’ ever changing needs.

“For me, having only come into post in the last six months, it’s a fantastic opportunity to reset and refocus on what’s important to our businesses now, what do we keep doing and what do we change.  It’s really important that businesses engage with BID to benefit from it so I’m looking forward to a fresh, reinvigorated term and would encourage all businesses to complete our survey to let us know what they want.

“I think businesses should vote for a second term for a number of different reasons.

“Firstly we are in a period of economic uncertainty and BID is an ideal vehicle to communicate the voice of Strabane’s business community on important issues, we recently lobbied to the Minister for the Economy and will continue to lobby to key stakeholders to ensure our businesses are heard on a strategic level. BID are ideally placed to be a strong collective voice.”

The town centre manager said that if the BID isn’t voted in for a second term this will represent a loss of circa £600,00 in investment for Strabane

“There’s a lot to be lost and with BIDs proving vital in cities and towns across the UK as dedicated resources for business improvement I think it’s even more crucial in the current environment that businesses vote for a second term of BID, one that they have shaped through the consultation and works diligently on their behalf,” she concluded.

– Businesses can take part in the consultation at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ZSFWPRJ

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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