Cobh needs business says Cllr Mulvihill Jnr

Cllr John Mulvihill Jnr would like Cobh Town Council to establish a grant scheme titled “New Business start up grant scheme 2012” to stimulate economic growth in the town of Cobh.

He spoke at this afternoons meeting of Cobh Town Council. Below are his notes: . As Councillors our main responsibility is to the people of Cobh. Each one of stood for election with one motive and purpose to make Cobh a better place to live and to ensure it meets its potential. I can remember as young councillor back in 2004 I had the impression that councillors had the power to make things happen in the town. It did not take long until I saw how restricted we were to change much as a result of the centralisation of power in Cork County Council and central government.

I sought to be imaginative in many aspects of the issues I raised from radon gasses, and a effort to raise the issue of high cancer rates in the town an issue I am still very concerned about and a issue I will come back to in the future there are many more issues I could mention tonight but as I am sure we all could, but we would be here all night.

Cobh is a town with huge potential at town that can buck the trend in the current economic environment, the thousands of visitors that pass through the town every year ms a result of the huge investment by the port of Cork in the liner terminal. A number of months ago Cobh was voted the most popular port of call in the world by the cruise liner companies this is a huge achievement but it would be wrong to sit on our laurels and glow in our success.

Recently I had the privilege of being invited on to the ballmoral during its visit on the occasion of the titanic week. I saw this as an opportunity to try and pick the brains of its captain on his impression of Cobh.

He told me of how impressed he was with Cobh the friendly atmosphere; the huge welcome liners receive some thing he said was not universal in other ports. He stated there was potential to develop the product of the town more. I have to say I agree with him here as I am sure we all do.

Many peoples impression in Cobh of the liner traffic and its benefit to Cobh, is its great but all the passengers are shipped out on busses to blarnery,Killarney , Kenmare, Sneem to mention a few and there is some justification in this. The break down of both crew and passengers is 33% stay on Board, 33% o on tours and 33% visit the town of the port. Many of the tours are half day tours come back at lunch time.

The reason I have outlined this issue is that this is an opportunity and it is only one aspect of the town tourism industry but industry means Jobs.

The figures of people in Cobh seeking unemployment benefit are 1105. Our job as cllr is to help in any way we can to create an environment where employment can grow and give employment to all those. We have the tourist in the town as I have stated however there are many gaps in the town’s main street where tourists are met with empty premises.

During the last council we commissioned a report on the future of the town many of its points were futuristic and in the present economic environment unachievable but one point I took out of it is the possibilities for the town. The fact is there are 40% of the business premises the town empty. Some might feel there is nothing we as cllr ca do about that but lets use this stat as a opportunity of taking some of those off the live register By creating a opportunity for them to start up there own business and may be become the next Declan Moynihan, Pat O’ shae….

I recognise there is only so much we as cllr can do but one aspect of this and a direct relations ship is a rates bill. As a new business the first engagement with the local authority is the rates bill. The average rates bill in Cobh is in the region of 1,500 this might not seem much but it could mean the difference between opening and closing.

We as a council have been hand strung in our efforts to bring initatives to encourage business start ups. I had hoped that under the new government that would have changed however this seems to have been not forthcoming to date. I await with anticipation the proposed changes to local government that I hope will give more powers to local council to implement schemes similar to what we have previously endeavoured to introduce.

During the AMAI spring seminar which Cllr O Connor and I attended Minister Phil Hogan stated “there are need to define a clearer, more effective, and more explicit and consistent role for local government in economic area. The reform programme will confer an enhanced role on local government in economic development.” I take minister Hogan at his word however I feel that Cobh has waited long enough and we should come up with a plan that would endeavour to get around the requirement of ministerial approval under section 2(1) of the Local Government (Rates) Act 1970

With this in mind I am proposing that the rebate section of our last scheme be replace with a business start up grant scheme.

“New Business start up grant scheme 2012”

1. To qualify for the scheme premises must be closed but available for lease or sale for a period no less than two years. 2. A rate payer pays the rates in full and then applies for a grant 3. The scheme dose not cover situations where a business is closed and then reopens by a person connected with the owner with the intention of seeking a grant. 4.The grant can be drawn down once the first year’s rates are paid.

5.The grant payable to the start up business would the 100% of the rates payable in year one, in year two 75% of the rates payable and in year three 50% and 25% in year four. 6. Where the building is let out the landlord shall reduce the rent similar to the amount as the grant

Setting up a new business is a daunting task. And has its financial risk. The taught process in making that move is long. The importance of a correct business plan, the feasibility of the project, and the basic skills needed to run a business are immense. Many business fail because of lack of knowledge in some of these areas.

There are inviduals living in Cobh who have experience in setting up business, who know the pitfalls and opportunities there are. Many of us have seen Fergal Quinn programme where he goes into a premise and gives advice in his many years of business and assist the business in turning around their business by changing a few small things. By harness the undoubted expertise we have in the town might make a huge difference to those starting up their own business for the first time.

The importance of financial help in setting up a new business is also important. Each bank in Cobh has an official to assist people in business start ups. They can see the viability of a project which is also essential.

As I have stated there is in the region of 40% of premise in the town up for let or empty. The auctioneers in the town are the people who would normally deal in letting those premises.

I there fore propose setting of a committee comprising the four categories I have outlined above with represtation from the town council also on the committee. In the past we have set up committees which have been large and end up as talking shops with many opinions resulting in little action. There fore I would suggest the make up be two business people two auctioneers,two three represatives from the banking sector ,three councillors , town manager and town clerk By setting up a committee of twelve I feel it would be focused on their work they have been asked to take on.

1. There focus would be, to advise people and assist them in business start ups. 2. Identify business who have been successful in the tourist industry and try and attract them to Cobh

3. identify premises that would be suitable to the business being proposed from a financial and suitability side.

4. Review the working of the grant scheme and bring recommendations to the council where necessary.

5. Create jobs in the town for those unemployed.

It may be said that is this the council job but I would refer them to the future of Town councils and the work they will be tasked with as I have stated earlier ““there is need to define a clearer, more effective, more explicit and consistent role for local government in economic area. The reform programme will confer an enhanced role on local government in economic development.” By doing this now we as a council will be getting an early start that can only help our town. It will also make the council more relevant in the town and ensure we as cllr are doing all in our power make our town a better place to live.

In conclusion I recognise that many might feel it slightly unfair to have one business paying one rate and next door paying a higher one. I have spoke to many the previous occasion and I was glad to see there support for that proposal as they felt the more business open up in town the buissirwe the town will get. Also when I reflect on the sentiments of the Captain of the balmoral I feel this proposal will enhance it.

Cobh is a great town with great voluntary groups doing exceptional work. They have in many cases put this town on the map and have made it a beautiful town to visit and also a great place to live.

By setting this scheme up it will make the town a better place to do business but will also help Cobh buck the trend. We as a body will be the first council in the country to try this but it could with all the other groups in town make the first place any body will want to visit in the country an accolade we as it is are well on the way to achieving.

I urge you to support this motion and if it is past I would ask we meet next Monday to accelerate the process of establishing the key items I have identified.

Thank you. Cllr John mulvihill Jnr, Cobh Town Councillor.

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