Better Towns through Partnership and BIDS

This week, the Chamber attended a conference entitled “Better Towns through Partnership and BIDS” in Ballymena. BIDS is the acronym for Business Improvements Districts, a statutory business funded facility enabling business led interventions to support a defined geographical area. The Conference was the culmination of an 18 Month EU funded project involving Ballymena, Coleraine, and Larne in Northern Ireland, Ayr in Scotland and Sligo in the Republic of Ireland. The project was aimed at bringing the different towns closer to the point where they could establish a formal BID, if they were so inclined.
It is always interesting to learn from other towns, both nationally and internationally. The CEO of Dublin BID, Richard Guiney gave an excellent presentation on how footfall had improved in “Dublin Town” subsequent to specific interventions by the Dublin BID team. David Fitzsimons of Retail Excellence Ireland spoke on how Limerick City has transformed its retail experience through collaborative engagement both locally and nationally.
There were speakers also from the Public sector, with Local Authorities outlining how they were assisting Local Business to deal with the effects of the economic recession, out of town retail and the rise in e-retail. It was very striking that so many towns across Ireland and the UK face so many similar challenges, and opportunities.
Sligo was represented at the conference by a large contingent of business people, public representatives and public officials. Speaking to them after the conference, it was very clear that many of the necessary ingredients to “Help Sligo Grow” are in place. There are gaps certainly, but experience tells us that these gaps are bridgeable through the sharing and acquisition of intellectual and financial resources and the sourcing of additional resources, both nationally and internationally.
There is also a fear that the momentum gained through partnership in Sligo over the past years could be compromised through a lack of resources. This would be a tragedy for all of us. We all need to think and work hard to keep this positive momentum. Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words.