The Ker­ry­man Busi­ness Awards guest Matt Cooper, a fan of lo­cal busi­ness

Jour­nal­ist, TV and Ra­dio pre­sen­ter, Matt Cooper, is this year’s guest speaker at The Ker­ry­man Busi­ness Awards on Oc­to­ber 19. He joins Stephen-Fernane for a short Q&A ses­sion on the im­por­tance of lo­cal busi­ness and the chal­lenge it faces

The Kerryman (Tralee Edition) - - NEWS -

Q: How im­por­tant is lo­cal busi­ness and what are some of its main chal­lenges?

A: It’s some­thing we’ve been talk­ing about a lot lately with the clo­sure of ru­ral post of­fices. The im­por­tance of lo­cal busi­ness is re­ally in cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment for people and to make sure people can con­tinue to live out­side the ma­jor cities. Kerry has some very sig­nif­i­cant towns that have a good mix of tourism and in­dus­try.

But the most fun­da­men­tal and im­por­tant thing about hav­ing prop­erly func­tion­ing busi­nesses is the em­ploy­ment they cre­ate that al­low people to live in that lo­ca­tion. That’s the most fun­da­men­tal rea­son for sup- port­ing lo­cal busi­nesses in their en­deav­ours.

An­other wor­ry­ing trend re­cently is that more people are start­ing to buy on-line rather than sup­port­ing lo­cal busi­ness. I can un­der­stand why people might do so as a short-term mea­sure to stretch their Euro a lit­tle fur­ther, but in the long-term the more people that buy stuff from over­seas, the more dam­age it’s go­ing to do to the fab­ric of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

Q: Can gov­ern­ment and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties do more to sup­port lo­cal busi­nesses and help solve the prob­lem of derelict build­ings that have be­come an eye sore in re­cent years?

A: An in­ter­est­ing phe­nom­e­non in the last cou­ple of decades has been the development of out of town cen­tres. That has led to a kind of degra­da­tion and run­ning down of a lot of town and vil­lage cen­tres. There may be scope for some tax in­cen­tive to have people liv­ing over the shop in their town and vil­lage again.

To try and en­cour­age people to live cen­trally and lo­cally rather than al­ways dis­pers- ing out­side the town could be ad­van­ta­geous. You can un­der­stand why people might want to live out­side a town, but there is an aw­ful lot to be said for en­cour­ag­ing people to ac­tu­ally live over the shop. It adds its own vi­brancy and it’s only when people are liv­ing in these places that many of the shops will re-open again.

I don’t know how suc­cess­ful it’s go­ing to be be­cause there just seems to be this trend to­wards out of town shop­ping and buy­ing on-line. But for the cul­tural and so­ci­etal grid of any area you need a thriv­ing town cen­tre.

You don’t want to be walk­ing into a place where ev­ery­thing is boarded up and there’s a sense of dere­lic­tion about the place. That can be­come an al­most self-pro­claimed prophecy for a town and its people who lack pride in their area. It’s a prob­lem in large parts of the coun­try and we need to see a bit more love for town cen­tres.

Q: What are the key strengths to do­ing busi­ness in a county like Kerry?

A: The one thing I al­ways find about Kerry people is that they have a good abil­ity to sell. That works its way up to the people at the top of Kerry Group which is one of the most fa­mous busi­nesses to have come out of Kerry in the last half cen­tury. It’s now be­come a global gi­ant.

But it’s that sense of am­bi­tion and hav­ing an abil­ity to sell that’s also strong. I think it’s a Kerry char­ac­ter­is­tic that has been im­bued over many years. It’s also very clear as well in the tourism sec­tor which I’m fa­mil­iar with from spend­ing hol­i­days reg­u­larly down in Kil­lar­ney and Din­gle. There is a very good ser­vice cul­ture, but also a very good knowl­edge on how to ac­tu­ally sell your­self.

There is al­ways am­bi­tion in Kerry. It’s the same when it comes to hav­ing an am­bi­tion to win All-Ire­land foot­ball ti­tles; it sort of comes out as an am­bi­tion in the county to be the best. That’s very much in ev­i­dence in busi­ness as well. That’s why I’m in­ter­ested in meet­ing the var­i­ous people there who have busi­ness in­ter­ests on the awards night.

Q: How im­por­tant is the fam­ily run busi­ness in the over­all con­text of sus­tain­ing lo­cal economies?

A: It has to be im­por­tant to a large ex­tent be­cause if it is not, what else do you have? That’s a big ques­tion for Ire­land. I can un- der­stand all the con­tro­versy of late about the clos­ing of lo­cal post of­fices, most of which are in very small ar­eas.

But you also have to say that com­mu­ni­ties must help them­selves as well. Min­is­ter De­nis Naugh­ten made an in­ter­est­ing point re­cently that people are not sup­port­ing their lo­cal fam­ily busi­ness and are head­ing off to the larger su­per­mar­kets in­stead. I know people have to get the best prices for what’s avail­able to them. But if you pass your lo­cal town or vil­lage and drive 15 or 20 miles to do your shop­ping then you can’t re­ally com­plain when your lo­cal fa­cil­i­ties close be­cause of a lack of busi­ness.

Q: What can gov­ern­ment do to help lo­cal busi­nesses?

A: It’s a prob­lem in many cases that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, be­cause they’re so strapped for funds from cen­tral gov­ern­ment, de­cide to get it off the lo­cal busi­nesses; busi­nesses that may not nec­es­sar­ily be in a po­si­tion to af­ford it. So you would worry a lit­tle bit about that. If lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and lo­cal gov­ern­ment is un­der­funded, they might re­gard lo­cal busi­ness as some­thing of a soft touch when it comes to gen­er­at­ing rev­enue.

Many com­pa­nies are strug­gling to make prof­its and the rea­son for this, in many cases, is due to the var­i­ous charges that are levied upon them by some agency of the State or other. So maybe that ap­proach needs to be eased a bit rather than al­ways con­cen­trat­ing on the head­line tax rate. Many of the smaller lo­cal busi­nesses are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to ac­tu­ally make a profit.

Q: Are you look­ing for­ward to at­tend­ing The Ker­ry­man Busi­ness Awards?

A: Yes, I am. Tralee is prob­a­bly the one part of Kerry that I haven’t vis­ited that much. I usu­ally spend a lot of time each year in Kil­lar­ney and Din­gle.

The last time I was in Tralee was when I cov­ered the Kerry ver­sus Sligo qual­i­fier game for TV3 in 2009. Kerry won the All-Ire­land that year.

When the chil­dren were small I would have vis­ited the Aqua Dome a good few times. I’m look­ing for­ward to the event and meet­ing people from Kerry’s busi­ness com­mu­nity.

Matt Cooper is this year’s guest speaker at The Ker­ry­man Busi­ness Awards on Oc­to­ber 19.

The Ker­ry­man awards 2018: Danny Cooper, Sales Ex­ec­u­tive, The Ker­ry­man , Joan McCarthy, Des­ti­na­tion Kerry (spon­sor) and Siob­han Mur­phy, Sales & Mar­ket­ing Man­ager, The Ker­ry­man.

The Ker­ry­man awards 2018: Danny Cooper, Sales Ex­ec­u­tive, The Ker­ry­man , Liam Lynch, Liam Lynch Skoda, Far­ran­fore (spon­sor) and Siob­han Mur­phy, Sales & Mar­ket­ing Man­ager, The Ker­ry­man.

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