New project to boost business

Skyline, Derry.
Skyline, Derry.

Derry has the lowest levels of entrepreneurship of any of the 11 Councils in the north, the local council has revealed.

A new project is now being set up to help promote and stimulate business growth across the council area in conjunction with Belfast City Council.

Kevin O’Connor, Head of Business at Derry & Strabane Council told the Council’s Business & Culture Committee on Tuesday that as the biggest regions in the North, both Belfast and Derry and Strabane face a number of economic challenges which affect their ability to achieve sustainable economic growth.

These, he said, included low business start-up rates with a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2015 report stating that Derry had the lowest early-stage entrepreneurial activity rate in the region at 4.2 per cent.

He said there was a high levels of “business deaths,” that since 2008 were tending to outnumber the creation of new firms.“Developing the sustainability and increasing the size of the private sector within both cities is critical to realising their economic potential,” he said.

The City Start Up Programme will support the development of new businesses in both council areas that have the potential to grow and employ staff in the fashion, retail (including markets), food and tourism sectors, the committee was told.

The committee agreed to allocate up to £20,000 for the year-long programme, which will also address challenges such as high street vacancies. There is also scope to extend the project, which will be launched next month, for another six months beyond this.

Sinn Fein Councillor Caoimhe McKnight welcomed the plans. She said: “It’s obviously very good to see this coming in for businesses within the district.

“This will help lower the vacancy rates and create jobs. It will be beneficial to all types of sectors and will hopefully help business to increase their online presence and successfully stay open.”

SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack also backed the plans.

Independent Councillor Darren O’Reilly asked how the roll out would be implemented and was told there would be a combination of proactive and open call processes.

Mr. O’Connor said that there had been other council business initiatives and competitions which had proved successful, including the £10k Business Start Up Challenge and others in partnership with NWRC and Magee.

“This complements all these programmes,” he said.