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Ballinrobe businesses to band together to tackle dwindling trade

Ballinrobe town
The Ballinrobe business community intend to help each other out to ensure the long term viability of businesses in the town.?Pic: Conor McKeown.

Ballinrobe businesses to band together

Ciara Galvin

A NUMBER of Ballinrobe’s business traders have come together in a bid to tackle dwindling trade.
In the interest of the local community and traders’ livelihoods, a group of Ballinrobe business people have joined forces to form the local Business Enterprise Organisation (BEO).
The group’s central focus is to stimulate the local economy by acting as a support network for new and existing businesses. The hope is to create innovative ideas that appeal to the purse strings of Ballinrobe shoppers and indeed the entrepreneurial streak in traders.
With the surprising news of JJ Gannon’s Hotel, bar and restaurant sadly closing its doors two weeks ago, people are in agreement that efforts must be stepped up in order to ensure future survival of local businesses.
Ballinrobe’s annual ‘Christmas Giveaway’, a popular and established venture to get people to shop local, proved to be a winner for shoppers and businesses alike in the last two years. “The sale days have been a tremendous success and we are already working on new ideas for Christmas 2012, while last year’s accomplishments are fresh in our minds”, declared local trader, Martin Murphy.
A member of Ballinrobe’s BEO initiative and owner of Murphy’s newsagent since 1975, Martin explained how the town’s business people are adapting to the economic climate.
“Local people now realise the importance of shopping local, and in turn they were rewarded for their loyal custom with the weekly prize draws in the Christmas draws and various sale days,” he explained.
“Every opportunity and measure must be taken to sustain the local economy. Money spent locally helps to sustain local jobs, and that must be our top priority in the months and years ahead”.
When asked what the most difficult part of running a business is these days, the Main Street trader highlighted costly overheads and lack of support from financial institutions. However, he also stressed the need to look ahead.
“What’s keeping us all going is the fact that we now know we can adjust to the downturn, I now look forward to the future.”
The BEO have received support from over 40 local businesses by providing vouchers for the Christmas draws and in their continued support of the annual production from Ballinrobe Musical Society.
“It’s a strong community that supports each other. We’ve also received fantastic support from over 140 businesses around the county in facilitating the networking scheme for new and existing businesses”, said Martin.
“In the future we hope that the majority of traders will come together in order to reduce costs of waste charges, phones and electricity. By doing this, it is the intention of the BEO that these savings can be passed on to the shoppers of Ballinrobe.”
Martin looks on the prospects of business in Ballinrobe with enthusiasm, and a realism that is truly refreshing. When asked how he ensures the survival of his business, he replied: “With hard work”. He currently works a 90 hour week and believes that since taking a more ‘hands-on approach’ in the last twelve months, he has learned more than in his previous 37 years of trading.

MEANWHILE, also speaking to The Mayo News, Councillor Michael Burke outlined his feelings on the town’s economic and social circumstances.
“We have an awful lot going for us,” he began on a positive note. “Three lakes, great agri-hinterland and we are the gateway to Connemara, if only we could expand on this.
“A substantial hotel is something we are missing very badly,” he added.
One area the councillor felt very strongly about was the parking provisions of the town.
“I’d like to see a reduction in parking charges and an extension on the existing ten minute leeway period. This would allow people greater freedom to shop around the town”, said Cllr. Burke.
“When you have the town’s businesses trying to compete with free parking on the outskirts of the town it is significantly more difficult.”
And what about the future for Ballinrobe?
“Town enhancement is an area where the council has money,” he admitted. “We have already secured planning for a state of the art civic centre, but in current economic times it is just not viable to proceed with building.”
Cllr Burke also mentioned a proposed ‘greenway’ type route between Claremorris and Ballinrobe. He believes this project can be taken on and brought to the attention of the Government, and he urged people to get behind it.  
In relation to derelict buildings Cllr Burke explained that owners of these properties were contacted with a view to purchasing or renovating the buildings.
However, with growing financial difficulty, and the Council’s unavailability to purchase these sites, it was a non-viable option: “We need a little bit of common sense, we cannot push the issue.”

Another local trader, publican, Eamon McGreal, took over a premises on Abbey Street in August 2011. Having never ran his own bar before, the Ballinrobe native has applied a similar work ethic to Martin Murphy; hard work and long hours. 
The publican contributed the move to running his own bar as a result of having no choice.
“I had to do something, in these times you can’t just wait for something to come your way”, he explained.
“After stock and bills, music is my biggest investment. Music is my biggest crowd puller. With emigration ravaging the town. I realise I can’t depend on younger generations. People travel from all over: Carnacon, Tourmakeady and Clonbur to see the entertainment. People need to be given something for their custom.”
Entrepreneurial Eamon also highlighted the need for all businesses to support each other.
“Yes, it’s tough, but supporting local traders is so important in order to keep the local economy going. The community depends on us and in turn we would hope that the public understand that we rely on them.”

The word on the street
Noel Connelly

“The town needs a good hotel, realistically it will be down the line when things improve. A swimming pool is a facility I think the town would benefit from, it would bring people into the town.
I try to make an effort to shop local but it’s difficult for smaller shops to compete with multi-nationals.
I hope to see prospering businesses in the future, but it’ll be difficult to get through the tough times and move on.”

J Hughes

“The town needs to appeal to visitors. We have the lakes and beautiful scenery but it’s not enough. We have no right accommodation and it’s not easy for businesses to keep their doors open.
I do try to shop local and make the effort to support the shops.  It’s an established town, it should be able to improve with the big catchment area it has.
A lot of young people are leaving but we need to be positive.”

Bernie McPadden

“People go where it’s cheaper. We are all experiencing the pinch so it’s hard for local businesses to compete with bigger shops that have cheaper products. I make an effort to shop local, I am not from the town but I shop here as much as I can.
I think if more special offers are put on, that would help. The town has nearly everything and if we can focus on keeping what we have open then the town will be OK.”

Angel Feerick

“IT’S so important to keep business local. The promotions were a good idea and it would be good to have more of them. It’s very hard to beat a bargain.
I think businesses need to come down to earth a bit to ensure survival. I shop local and I say it to people that they should also.
We really need to promote the town more. We have a fantastic championship golf course, the new walkway up at the Green and fabulous lakes.”

Martin Kavanagh

“EVERYONE would benefit greatly from a hotel and leisure centre.
I try to shop local as often as possible. Shopping local means keeping money and jobs in the town and these days that is crucial.
The sale days are brilliant for the town, there’s always a great buzz around and people support these days.
Future of the town isn’t great at the moment, but I think if people get together and rally around, the town can improve its situation.”

Interviews: Ciara Galvin