Calls have been made for the city council to establish a Business Forum with stakeholders to address challenges facing industries in the Covid-19 crisis.
City Councillor Clodagh Higgins was reacting to the high profile closure of Debenhams and Laura Ashley in recent days, and warned that more crucial businesses in the city could fold if they are not supported through the Covid-19 crisis and into the recovery phase.
Debenhams closure alone is expected to cost roughly 140 jobs in Galway City with the announcement that all of its Irish stores are not expected to reopen after the current crisis has passed.
“When you see anchor tenants and retailers who have been around for decades closing up shop in the early stage of Covid-19 that just begs the question how many other family-run
businesses will slip away unnoticed,” Councillor Higgins said.
The Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation has announced multiple capital support schemes for businesses in the Covid-19 pandemic, including microfinance loans of up to €50,000 for small enterprises which are interest and repayment free for the first six months.
But struggling businesses need a “hands on approach” at the local level if they are going to survive Councillor Higgins added, warning of far reaching consequences for the city if this is not done.
“Not only will the economy and jobs be impacted but we can kiss good-bye to a vibrant city centre populated with diverse independent and international stores.
This retail mix is part of what attracts people to the city centre and gives it its “unique vibe” she added.
“Therefore, a reduced retail footprint will impact the social amenity value of the city centre and will affect our sense of community, which might never be recovered”.
The Fine Gael Councillor added that the city council needs to be developing a roadmap for recovery in the aftermath of this crisis, or else some businesses will never reopen.
In order to help kickstart this process she said the council needs to establish a business forum with stakeholders from across industry sectors, including retail, hospitality,
tourism, media, and transport.
This forum should also include representatives from state agencies such the Local Enterprise Office, Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Employment Affairs.
But this forum needs “teeth” to drive initiatives for Galway’s recovery Higgins added, to ensure Galway is not left lagging behind when the recovery starts.