BY JACKIE KEOGH
REPRESENTATIVES of Skibbereen Chamber of Commerce have met with members of the West Cork Municipal District in a bid to open up better dialogue with the local authority, and seek their assistance in developing Skibbereen town and the surrounding district.
Chairman Dr Cathal Wilson said Skibbereen and District Chamber had achieved a lot in terms of enhancing the town’s business environment, as well as supporting existing businesses and attracting new ones. However, he said more direct contact and communication would allow them to co-operate on local projects.
He cited the Chamber’s plans to invest in the town’s Christmas lighting scheme as but one example where the two organisations could work well together and while he welcomed a €2,500 contribution towards the cost of providing Christmas lights, he said the overall cost of revamping the system could be in the order of €25,000.
‘We are doing fundraising activities and are considering applying for a loan for the lights,’ said Mr Wilson, who also made the point that local organisations, including the Chamber, would benefit from better communication surrounding the Council’s own three-tiered grant scheme known as the General Municipal Allocation, which, this year, amounted to €305,000.
Dr Wilson also highlighted the need for improved communication surrounding the future of the tourist office in Skibbereen, which is currently being run by the Chamber with a subvention from Failte Ireland.
He said the Chamber had done a lot of work and used Chamber dues to assist in the provision of three part-time employees, as well as training a lot of volunteers to run the tourist office – which is a lifeline for the region.
Ideally, he said the Chamber was hoping to open the tourist office seven days a week, but he also said work had to be done to upgrade the website promoting all aspects of living and working in Skibbereen.
He maintained a more commercially-based site would provide the double advantage of allowing local businesses and services to not only promote themselves, but also sell to the local, national and international market.
‘It requires investment,’ said Dr Wilson, who expressed confidence that the proposal, together with the Chamber’s efforts to lobby for improved broadband capacity and speed, as well as its efforts to unite businesses so they could negotiate a better rate from energy providers.
Dr Wilson made the point that Skibbereen needs improved Civic Amenity facilities so visitors and holiday makers can responsibly dispose of their refuse and he also asked for permission to take over the management of the ‘What’s On’ sign at Cork Road with a view to keeping it updated on a regular basis.
On the social side, he said the Chamber was very actively involved in promoting high profile but also highly enjoyable community events, such as SCAR, the Skibbereen Charity Adventure Race, which has an altruistic quality too, and the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade.
By supporting other popular, and high profile events, such as A Taste of West Cork Food Festival, the Skibbereen Arts Festival, Business Breakfasts and Cycle for Suicide, Dr Wilson the Chamber was playing an active and dynamic role in community life.
However, in conclusion, he made the point that Failte Ireland seemed to be ‘unplugging’ itself from the operation of tourist offices and relying instead on heavily promoting the Wild Atlantic Way. But he said: ‘The Tourist Office is a key component in terms of promoting tourism.’ He said it is what encourages visitors to stay longer and explore the many attractions that Skibbereen and District has to offer.’
The chairman of the West Cork Municipal District, Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF), paid tribute to the hard work, enterprise and initiative shown by Skibbereen and District Chamber of Commerce and acknowledged: ‘There is a vacuum since the demise of the town councils.’
Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) agreed there is ‘a void’ now and she stressed the need for the Chamber to ‘connect’ with each of the councillors. And she also suggested that the ‘Visit Cork County’ website should be used as the vehicle to promote the entire region. ‘We need to work together to market West Cork as a brand,’ she said.
Cllr Noel O’Donovan (FG) also urged the Chamber representative to take the squeaky wheel approach and to continually ‘invite us as councillors to your meetings. That is what we are here for,’ he said.