Town Catalyst CIC (community interest company) is a new venture aiming to help turn the tide of decline in Scotland’s town centres – and it’s being road-tested in East Lothian.
By offering financial and practical support to new businesses, it plans to attract a high quality of sustainable private business to the heart of communities, starting in Dunbar.
Supported by East Lothian Council, Town Catalyst will provide subsidised premises and running costs during a six month ‘incubation’ project in an empty unit in Dunbar High Street. Applications are now invited from interested businesses wanting to move into retail – and they also want to hear from landlords who may have suitable empty premises which could help expand the project.
“Town centres are important places for an abundance of social and environmental reasons,” said Simon Hill, Town Catalyst Director. “We hope to bring a steady flow of new viable businesses to town centres to help revitalise them, both socially and physically, re-establishing town centres that communities can be truly proud of.”
“The blight of vacant properties, and proliferation of betting and charity shops, has led many of Scotland’s high streets to terminal decline. Out of town retail developments and internet shopping have hit many traditional retail businesses hard, but there are still opportunities for retail to exist in smaller town centres.”
“With the right support, independent retailers can provide specialist value and add services that all towns need. A healthy high street also reduces crime, builds community spirit and creates a pleasant place for people to meet and spend time. These are all key to ensuring that towns thrive.”
Applicants should be new businesses or existing business, not currently operating within the town they are applying for. Potential candidates can apply directly via the website www.towncatalyst.co.uk.
The pilot program will run for six months starting in January, 2018, based in Dunbar.
The successful applicant will receive financial support for six months, reducing their outgoings by 50 percent for this key period to help establish them. Alongside subsidised premises and running costs, they will receive practical support from Business Gateway and a fully qualified accountant.
At the end of the 6-month incubation period the business will hopefully be well-positioned to take premises of its own and continue to grow and thrive. This financial support removes one of the greatest barriers to new business, by reducing expensive start-up costs. The Town Catalyst program will also start entrepreneurs on a learning journey which will stand them in good stead to grow a successful business and create jobs in the local area.
Councillor John McMillan, East Lothian Council’s spokesperson for Economic Development and Tourism, said: “This is just the type of forward-thinking project we need in East Lothian to help us achieve our aims of making East Lothian the best place in Scotland in which to live, work and do business. We’re delighted to be able to support Town Catalyst and I look forward to seeing the first incubator business thrive and to help the project expand not just in East Lothian but hopefully be rolled out throughout Scotland.”
Town Catalyst is also seeking forward-thinking landlords with vacant units across Scotland who would like to support this initiative by providing premises at reduced rent for potential candidates with a view to cultivating a long term successful tenant. Find out more via the website www.towncatalyst.co.uk
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