Cork is at the cusp of something great

Cork is at the cusp of something great

2023 was a largely positive year for business in Cork City. The economy is thriving. Footfall is coming back. We have the lowest unemployment ever recorded in Ireland and there are more people coming home than leaving.

However, many businesses are continuing to be impacted by the cost of living crisis, the increase on the VAT rate, increasing costs, staff shortages, debt warehousing, and of course the wider international challenges with wars. The acute housing problem is also impacting business’ ability to recruit.

Earlier this year we met with a number of Ministers to outline our objectives for the city, and our concerns, including An Tánaiste Micheal Martin, Minister Michael McGrath on the budget, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee on security and increased garda presence in the city, and Minister Simon Coveney.

Some of the initiatives we are continuing to advocate for include urban housing, a reintroduction and broadening in scope of the Living in the City Initiative, reliefs on business taxes and debt warehousing, a clean and safe city with a greater garda presence on our streets. We are working closely with key stakeholders to help make positive improvements.

During the summer, the CBA made our pre budget submission to the Department of Finance. We made a number of recommendations with the aim of enticing landlords back into the rental market.

While the government did include a tax credit for landlords, we are of the view that this won’t be enough to alter the market.

We also set out the difficulties small businesses have with regard to the cost of doing business. As we expected, minimum wage costs and PRSI increases were included in Budget 2024. This is putting immense strain on certain businesses. Thankfully, inflation is now reducing, due to the increase in interest rates, but we expect 2024 to be another difficult year for certain sectors in the economy.

We are delighted to see the completion of the revamped MacCurtain Street. Over the next year, there will be further disruption as we see numerous public-realm improvements, but it will be worth it.

Developments include those on Grand Parade, the Library, Bishop Lucey Park and the South Main Street, the Docklands the redevelopment of Crawford Art Gallery, and the roll-out of Bus Connects. We will also see the construction of two new bridges on to the event centre site, which we hope there will be news on soon, in addition to the Morrison’s Island public realm and flood defence scheme towards the middle of next year.

Cork is going to be unrecognisable in a few years’ time. We are on the cusp of something great.

Confidence in the centre as the premier retail destination in Munster continues to be high and we were delighted to see the opening of a number of stores including Flannels, B Perfect, and the return of Mango.

It was great to also see the former Roches Stores/Debenhams building sold to the Elverys chain last year. The 2024 renovation will be the biggest thing to hit Patrick Street since Opera Lane with its mixed retail use. It is of course critical that we continue to reduce the amount of vacant premises in the city.

We are thrilled to see planning permission was finally granted for the redevelopment of the Queen’s Old Castle – this will bring an additional 800 workers into the city, which will have a knock-on effect for us all.

Festivals over the year continued to have an amazing impact on the city, from Sounds of a Safe Harbour to the new Cork on a Fork Festival, which we are a proud partner of, to Culture Night, the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival weekend, and latterly the gorgeous Corkmas.

Over the year, we also acknowledged incredible businesses throughout the city who are going above and beyond to create a city we can all be proud of. Our Cork Business of the Year Awards will take place again in April, with our Cork Better Building Awards scheduled for November 2024, and we encourage you all to enter for free.

Thank-you to all who contributed to the CBA submission on the Street Performer Bylaws. We are now completing our submission on the Climate Action Plan for Cork City, which will be transformative.

As we look to the future, we must remember that Cork City will double in size over the next 20 years – the combined growth of Limerick, Galway, and Waterford cities over the next 25 years. How we manage this growth will define what sort of city we will have for at least a century. We need a city that is attractive, but also a city that works. We have to get the key ingredients right – employment, living and transport.

At the CBA, we remain very optimistic about the future of Cork city. We can see the hard work and dedication of the many stakeholders that are working within the city, and while there are obvious hurdles and challenges to be overcome, it must be said that Cork, because of its collaborative stakeholder eco–system, is uniquely placed to emerge from these challenges as a vibrant, inclusive, thriving and sustainable city.

As the judging panel at the recent Rising City awards in Marseille, where Cork came third out of 100 European cities, said: “Cork, the home of the ‘Rebels’, as Corkonians are known, is a place that does not settle for second best, nor necessarily for the status quo, but instead seeks to disruptively explore what’s possible.”

We will begin that process next year with our members as we embark on a new five-year strategic plan to be unveiled in January.

Corcaigh Abu for 2023!

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