Belfast Telegraph

SMEs the lifeblood of an economy, says US business leader

A New York business leader has said that focusing on the 'little things' could transform Belfast's fortunes.

The commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services, Rob Walsh, was in the city sharing best practices on neighbourhood regeneration, business services and workforce development.

He said that when people think of New York City, they think big but that the Big Apple has over 300 neighbourhoods made up of 50 ethnic groups, speaking 170 languages.

Mr Walsh also suggested the idea of 'business improvement districts' for struggling areas.

"The character of New York is found beyond its bridges and big buildings, on local streets and sidewalks, and in its nearly 200,000 small businesses," he said.

"While Belfast is an international city of industry, commerce, and finance, it too has a character found in its neighbourhoods and small businesses.

"The story of New York is a story relevant to Belfast. By making a commercial area attractive, local development organisations, businesses, and government can increase foot traffic and generate more economic activity.

"Belfast has a number of distinctive communities with unique identities and attractions.

"Business owners and residents should unite to promote neighbourhoods as places to enjoy rather than to simply work and live.

"In New York and in other cities across the globe, these goals are sometimes advanced by public-private entities known as Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) that provide services based on an additional assessment for property owners.

"New York's network of 64 BIDs delivers over $100m in supplemental services across the five boroughs.

"Under the leadership of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, we have overseen the creation of 20 new BIDs over the past nine years.

"To work, a successful BID requires the support of both key stakeholders and the greater community. Belfast could benefit from a BID and should move forward, but only if the support is there."