TRADERS are uniting in an effort to “bring Ballymoney back to its former glory”.
Business owners throughout the town are rallying behind a range of ventures aimed at encouraging residents to support retailers on their doorstep rather than spend their cash elsewhere.
And they are also anxious to pull in outside visitors with a host of top events in the pipeline for 2012 in Ballymoney.
With the current financial climate giving rise to a widespread feeling of doom and gloom, traders are adopting a robust approach to the situation.
Over 30 members of the Ballymoney business community gathered at a meeting organised by the town’s Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday to discuss how best to tackle issues affecting traders.
It is believed to be the biggest meeting of its kind to take place in the borough in a generation.
Don Campbell - a vastly experienced businessman who moved to the town five years ago - was one of those present.
He runs an eaterie at the corner of High Street and Church Street in the heart of the town and is passionate about the need for local traders and retailers to unite to protect the future of Ballymoney businesses.
“Ballymoney prided itself on having the best reputation of any market town in Northern Ireland,” Don told the Times.
“We need to work at bringing Ballymoney back to its former glory otherwise that reputation will be gone forever.
“We, the small independent traders, are fighting the fight.
“We have such massive events coming up this year including the World Bowls Championships, Olympic Torch run, North West, etc. We really need to roll the welcome mat out.
“As well as the shops we have the JDLC, rugby club, Riada Stadium and much more. This town has everything going for it. It is time for local retailers and residents to tell the rest of the world.
“The independent retailers really appreciate the support they get from Ballymoney people and those from the surrounding areas.
“Ballymoney still has a reputation as a good, friendly town to shop in.
“This town has so much to offer.”
Those who attended the meeting said a number of key issues were raised including parking and the pressing need to address the aesthetics of some areas such as Linenhall Street.
“We need the right infrastructure in place to attract people to the town,” said Don.
“There is too much doom and gloom. We in Ballymoney should be blowing our trumpet about what we have to offer.
“This town has a lot to blow its trumpet about.
“We are the gateway to the north coast. Everything that happens there, people have to drive past Ballymoney.
“Ballymoney is the gateway and the independent traders are the gatekeepers.
“There is a growing trend for people to return to market towns like Ballymoney. We need to captialise on that.”
In a bid to capitalise on visitors to the bowls and pipe band events, shuttle buses will be put in place from the venues to the town centre.
A council statement released after the meeting said: “Business representatives present discussed current marketing activities targeted at residents, the wider catchment population, visitors to the Causeway Coast and investors.
“Plans to extend floral displays, environmental improvements, improved signage and website development, training needs and opening hours including opening on bank holidays also engaged the meeting’s attention.
“Delegates also participated in a facilitated workbook exercise to identify the town’s strengths, issues that need addressed and challenges for the future.
“This information will be collated and a follow meeting meeting to consider a vision for the town and plans for its future.
“On the development front delegates received an update on the townscape heritage initiative which aims to improve the town properties and a new sustainable borough initiative.
“The meeting was advised that the Chair of the council’s development committee, Cllr John Finlay, has agreed to host a stakeholder forum with representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and statutory agencies to discuss the way forward for the development of the town.”