THE new President of the Roe Valley Chamber of Commerce, local solicitor David Brewster, is backing calls for Limavady to be treated as an economic special case by setting up an ‘Enterprise Zone’ in the area.
The idea had originally been mooted by local MLA John Dallat, who discovered this week that not one single investor had visited Limavady in the past year after quizzing Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.
Mr Brewster told the Sentinel that while people in the Roe Valley are lucky that they can rely on the honest work ethic of local businesses and do not have to shop in an “identikit” town, more should be done to encourage investment to towns like Limavady.
He said: “I made the calls for an Enterprise Zone, although I think it was the Assembly member John Dallat who was saying that originally so I can’t take the credit for it. The basis for the comments about setting up an Enterprise Zone for Limavady is the fact that no investors came in the past year. The Minister has said that it is up to the investors themselves to decide where they want to go and that they can’t be forced to come to a certain area.
“My point is when there are areas with significant deprivation, such as Limavady, there should be incentives to bring them to those areas. More should be done to make it worthwhile for investors to come west of the Bann – to areas such as Limavady.”
Asked for a general assessment of the mood amongst traders, the new Chamber of Commerce President said: “There is a need for people to recognise that they have a very good commercial community in the Roe Valley – Ballykelly, Dungiven, Limavady – because it is the Roe Valley and not just Limavady.
“At a time when people are running a mile from the pre-packaged, pre-prepared food from supermarkets, local butchers are taking advantage. With your local butcher you can be assured of the quality of the meat and people are often willing to pay a bit more for it.
“Why not do the same for clothes, furniture etc? When people shop local they are supporting local jobs. We have a lot of small, independent, long-term steady businesses. Limavady is probably a bit behind the times in that regard but that is not a bad thing in my opinion. For instance, the Crescent Link retail park is an example. It is the same shopping experience as anywhere. You are presented with these big, multi-national businesses. People coming from a long distance away have told me how much they enjoy coming to Limavady.”
Regarding the future, Mr Brewster continued: “I think it’s too early to say that the green shoots of recovery are flourishing but I think people do see better times coming.”