Mayor gets down to business at breakfast

BOOSTING Ballymena's business acumen is the aim behind a series of 'Business Breakfasts' which are to be hosted by the Mayor, Cllr Maurice Mills, over the coming year.

The first, to be held on Friday, October 22, will see “The political and financial scene set” by MP, Ian Paisley.

“I will be trying to get as many interested businesses as possible involved,” the Mayor explained to councillors when he announced his plan at last Monday night’s monthly Council meeting in Ardeevin.

“I am hoping ideas will be moved around and we can progress as a result of these,” he said.

Mr Mills said he also hoped the business breakfasts will identify new entrepreneurs in the borough, encourage local inter-trading, and boost marketing and tourism.

And he pointed out that the events would be taken forward in conjunction with the Shadow Ballymena Town Development Ltd. Board which, he added, continues to meet monthly to progress such initiatives as the Town Centre Masterplan and the development and implementation of a Christmas marketing campaign for Ballymena.

“This shows a very good example of partnership working, of all working together for the benefit of the town. It’s a unique model in Ballymena and one that is being examined by other councils as a leading vehicle to improve other town centres in Northern Ireland,” said the Mayor.

Congratulating the Mayor and all those involved, Cllr Paul Frew said: “We are certainly one step ahead and we must remain one step ahead.

“I believe that in the grip of recession it is our job to lessen the blow and soften the effect it has on our most vulnerable and our business community,” said Mr Frew.

To that end, the councillor said he had been involved in meetings over the past number of months with Council’s Chief Executive, Invest NI and the local Chamber of Commerce in his role as chair of the Economic Development Committee.

“I believe we have come to a point where we need to expand on what we have talked about,” said Cllr Frew who revealed that he would, therefore, be hosting a forum in Stormont’s Long Gallery on November 1.

Extending an invitation to councillors to attend, Mr Frew said the event would bring together MLAs, Invest NI, various Department Ministers and Ballymena Chamber of Commerce and that those who turned up would “hear how we can cope and recover” from the current recession.

Cllr Roy Gillespie complained that “the villages” were being left out but was told by Council’s Chief Executive Anne Donaghy that the economic development initiative would in time be rolled out across the borough.

“I will make sure that happens,” she told the meeting.