During October our small business have taken on new employees, in our offices in Cork and Galway. As far as we are concerned, the recession is now over, it’s time to move on. I would say to every family business owner who reads this letter if you can and are even vaguely thinking about employing another person soon, do it now!
As a proud Cork man I have to admit that I read the article by Joe Gill in Wednesday’s edition with great interest and a fair amount of built-up frustration at the decay of what was once a proud and thriving commercial street, the South Mall.
I have lived in Cork for over 65 years, both north and south of the River Lee, and love everything about our city with a passion. I visited the South Mall last week and walked the entire street and the state of the buildings and the high vacancy rates were awful to see.
I see the problem as being twofold, parking and poor quality buildings. I am involved in a small family business and we were one of many such businesses who moved from the South Mall over the last 10 years to various locations in Blackrock. Now our staff can park their cars and even, more importantly, our customers can visit us without the hassle of trying to get into and park in the city. It is one of the best things we have done in the 42 years we have been in business. Our customers just love it.
Joe talked about the passion of Munster and the All Blacks and he could have included the Cork hurlers who were so brilliant twice against a great Clare team. When they have a problem they address it and see where they went wrong and plan and get excited about the plan and the dream of winning the next time. They get passionate about it and that’s what we need now. We need pride in our city.
I would love to see the city manager sitting down with a few of the top commercial property developers like Owen O’Callaghan and Michael O’Flynn and together with a few top architects and engineers forming a 10-year plan to put life and people back, either living or working on the street. Naturally, parking has to be a priority. It can be done, anything is possible and already one man, Ernest Cantillon, has shown that by being creative and hard working that businesses can survive and thrive on the South Mall, even in tough economic times.
I mentioned the River Lee which is the source and main focus of Cork City. It is now clean and great development has taken place around the Clarion hotel that makes us all proud. This river now has a few moorings for boats and to help reduce the unnecessary cars that park in the city all day. Could not some of these people be transported into the city by river? Thousands of people who work in cities like Sydney come to work every day by ferry. What a lovely way to go to work: no traffic jams, no pollution; no parking fines. A trip on the river, and a brisk walk to work — happy days.
Joe is right when he talks about taking on Dublin in relation to new start-up industries. We have a good airport and fine road system. When I started to work there were at least three publicly quoted companies based in Cork, the Gas Company, Youghal Carpets and my own family firm Dwyer & Co. Sadly, they are all gone. Maybe it is time a few new ones came on stream.
Finally, well done to the Irish Examiner for doing a feature on this problem. The power of good positive press is needed more than ever because leadership is needed to ignite public opinion and get this country moving again. It was also wonderful to read the announcement that the new conference centre is going ahead. That will give the city a much-needed short-term construction boost and long-term tourism benefits.
I couldn’t help thinking that a Cork taoiseach over the next few years would also be a great help and deep down I don’t mind from which political party. Up Cork.