This time last year in my article for the Stirling Observer, I reflected on the success of the Stirling Business Summit held in September last year. This Summit was attended by a number of local small, medium and large businesses and was a great platform for a discussion on issues which matter to business in the Stirling area.
The common goal discussed at the Summit was how all local stakeholders can play their part to maximise the unrivalled potential of Stirling city centre, and how we can revitalise the high-street to the benefit of all.
I also spoke of the need for a mature and inclusive discussion on the way forward for businesses in Stirling city centre and the issues which affect them.
Since I hosted the summit, there have been a number of positive steps forward.
For example under new leadership, the Stirling BID team have established a broad range of initiatives designed to encourage more footfall on the high street, to improve the city centre environment and introduced business support policies which are designed to help independent traders to embrace e-commerce.
One of the major concerns of business owners in the city centre last year was the rise of anti-social behaviour, crime and substance misuse. To counter this, I have seen first-hand the effectiveness of the Police response - Operation Steadfast - on areas of the city centre and I would congratulate the Police on this response.
The close collaboration between Stirling Council, Police Scotland and other agencies in Operation Steadfast is helping to make Stirling a safer and more welcoming place to live, work and visit.
Tourism also continues to boom across the area, with record numbers of visitors to the many attractions we have to offer, which have helped to add vibrancy to the high-street and undoubtedly increased revenues in the local economy.
I have also held several meetings with Stirling Council to discuss further issues such as waste management and car parking charges, and have received positive feedback about measures that are being taken to alleviate some of these concerns.
All of these positive steps forward should be welcomed by all who have an interest in ensuring a positive future for our high-street.
However, there are also great challenges for Stirling city centre and I hear about the difficulties on a regular basis when talking to small business owners across the city centre and beyond.
Recurring issues such as anti-social behaviour, substance misuse, street drinking, waste management, littering, increasing business rates and declining footfall continue to cause businesses a great deal of concern.
Figures released just last week show that more than five shops closed every week on Scotland’s high-streets in the first six months of 2019. While occupancy rates in Stirling are higher than the national average, there are still enormous pressures facing our local retailers.
Let me be clear - this is not about talking Stirling down – we have a city-centre to be proud of but there is also greater potential to realise to make Stirling the very best it can be
Following the success of last year’s meeting, I am hosting another business summit at the Golden Lion on Thursday 19th September 2019 from 6:30pm where local businesses can air their concerns in a public forum and give direct feedback to local stakeholders and representatives.
If you would like to attend the summit, or discuss any other issues, please email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the Stirling Observer on the 18th and 20th September 2019.