Buncrana Chamber of Commerce celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and chairman Neil Doherty Roe believes the town can look forward to a bright future.
“There have been a lot of changes since the Chamber was established in 2003. The past few years especially have been tough for families and for businesses, but the Chamber has worked hard to keep established businesses going and give help and support to new ventures. Small businesses are vital for the economy in any town because they provide employment and support local suppliers, so our top priority is helping Buncrana to thrive.”
Neil explained some of the ways the Chamber helped its members. “We know it’s tough when a business is starting out, so we offer free membership to new businesses for the first year. We’re able to represent members’ interests to the Town Council regarding rates, street maintenance, casual trading and we recently negotiated to secure the half-hour of free on-street parking which has been a boost for the Main Street and the town centre. We work with the Chambers in Derry and Letterkenny, and with the Donegal Enterprise Board to promote talks, seminars and workshops aimed at helping businesses and we bring these to Buncrana whenever we can. These are the type of things that have grown through the ten years the Chamber has been operating and we’ll be making sure we provide many more opportunities for our members to improve their businesses in the coming years.”
The Chamber works with other organisations that have the same aim of making Buncrana a busy, vibrant place for locals and visitors. “We all need to pull together to make the town, and the whole peninsula, a place people will enjoy. We’re the gateway to Inishowen and we’ve worked with Inishowen Tourism on events and projects that attract people to the area. These visitors bring important income to our members, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, enjoying the nightlife, buying souvenirs and filling their cars with fuel. In the past year we’ve helped bring such events as the An Post Ras, the Ulster Irish Dance Championships and the Donegal Rally to the town. 2013 has the potential to be even bigger with the City of Culture and Fleadh Cheoil events in Derry. Last year we also worked with local groups such as the Music & Arts Festival, the Mayor’s Ball fundraising efforts and Insight Inishowen’s ‘Feelgood Fortnight’. We all want to see the town doing well and working together is the only way.
Buncrana Shopping Vouchers are the Chamber’s most successful scheme. “The scheme is getting bigger every year, and sales increased by over 20% last year,” said Neil. “People realise that our vouchers keep money in the local economy and help to protect employment in the area.
That’s the most important aim of the Chamber. We have members who employ one person and members employing a hundred, but every one of those jobs can be the livelihood for a family, so we encourage people to shop locally whenever they can and help to make Buncrana a prosperous place for everyone.”
After ten years when the Chamber has seen good times and bad, Neil is confident about Buncrana’s future. “We have good people in the town. They help each other out, and that’s what the Chamber aims to do. I’m sure in another ten years we’ll have a bigger and busier Chamber and a thriving town.”
And Neil had one last word on the Buncrana Shopping Vouchers: “If you received vouchers for Christmas, don’t put them away somewhere safe and then forget about them. Get out and spend them!