Cooma's empty shops - business fights back

STUNG by community reaction to the increasing number of empty shops in Cooma, the Chamber of Commerce has launched a counter attack, warning against "talking ourselves into the doldrums."

Chamber president David Shelley said Cooma had many strengths and opportunities and the natural cycle of businesses closing will be met just as quickly with new ones opening up.

The Chamber is organising a special meeting in early April at which plans for a new Be Local Buy Local campaign will be explained.

Mr Shelley told the Express the meeting would hear of a two-pronged message - educating the community to buy local, and providing business with a better understanding of how to move with the times.

He said the Chamber planned to inject considerable resources into the project.

Cooma-Monaro mayor Dean Lynch has indicated that the council would organise a public meeting about the issue of empty shops and economic development.

In a letter published today (see page 6) Mr Shelley quoted research that showed that businesses starting and closing in Cooma was a natural cycle.

"The enthusiasm and willingness of new enterprise should never be discouraged but it's a sad fact that not all business decisions are the right ones and the market will quickly decide who makes a dollar and who does not," he wrote.

New businesses opening up would become an even faster process as landlords dropped rents to market conditions and opportunities.

"In the meantime, the Cooma Chamber of Commerce is fully committed to working with the council and the community in a coordinated and targeted way to build an even stronger Cooma," he said. Mr Shelley was a member of the high powered Economic Development Taskforce that recommended a number of measures to boost the local economy.

He said the time had come to act. The work of the taskforce showed very clearly that doing nothing was not an option.

However, Mr Shelley warned against a scattergun approach - instead, the community should target resources of both the council and business community on initiatives that added real long term value.

"We also support the recommendation that a high level, professional full time Economic Development Director reporting to the (council's) General Manager be appointed," he said.

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