A Derry businesswoman has become the first person to benefit from 50% rates relief for setting up shop in a previously empty premises.
Finance Minister Sammy Wilson was in Derry on Wednesday to congratulate Catriona Jones who opened a gift shop, ‘The Olive Tree,’ in a former newsagents which had been empty for some time. She will enjoy 50% discount for 12 months under the Small Business Rates Relief Scheme which, the Minister said, 1,900 businesses in the Derry and Limavady areas had benefited from since its extension in April.
During his visit the minister went walkabout in the city centre, meeting local traders for a little retail therapy as well as holding talks with the local chamber of commerce in a private meeting.
“I welcome the opportunity to hear the views of traders and the concerns that many have, both here in Limavady and Londonderry. While the downturn has impacted on all sectors some have fared better than others during that period and I know that small businesses in particular are struggling.” He added: “I am very encouraged by this visit and being able to see at first hand the first success of this new scheme to help Mrs Jones in the setting up of her small gift shop. This is exactly the sort of local business we want to help.”
During his meeting with the local chamber of commerce, Mr Wilson assured business leaders in the north west of his determination to promote economic growth. Mr Wilson was quizzed on the Programme for Government as well as on progress regarding proposals to assist local retail and other businesses, accelerate the city’s regeneration, expand higher education, improve transport links and reduce corporation tax.
Minister Wilson said the principal goal in the Programme for Government, alongside the Economic Strategy, is to “put us firmly on the road to economic recovery.” However, he called for all stakeholders to “play their part” in bringing the North out of tough financial times.
Sinead McLaughlin, chief executive of the chamber, said: “We are delighted that Sammy Wilson is in Derry to meet our members and other local businesses. These are difficult times and require serious discussions to take place about boosting the local economy, relieving the rates burden and creating more jobs. As Sammy Wilson would expect, we will lobby him hard on behalf of the business community of the city and region.”