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
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.