Finance Minister Conor Murphy today visited one of the businesses which has opened with help from the ‘Back in Business’ scheme.
The scheme, which was launched in March 2022, offers businesses a 50% rates discount for up to two years if they occupy a vacant shop unit.
Minister Murphy visited the Smoothie Factory in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter to hear how the rates support has helped establish the business.
Speaking following the visit, Finance Minister said: “It is encouraging to hear that the Back in Business scheme has helped to establish this start-up. The two years of discounted rates has given Smoothie Factory much needed certainty to establish their first store here.
“This revamped scheme builds on the rate relief previously offered, extending the 50% discount for an additional year. It is encouraging to hear that the scheme has already helped 10 businesses take the step to set up a new business, expand their footprint or extend their offering from online onto the high street.”
The Scheme offers 50% rate relief for up to two years when empty premises become occupied. The concession applies to any business ratepayer who moves into premises, which were previously used for retail purposes and have been unoccupied for 12 months or more.
Andrew McQueen, Managing Director at Smoothie Factory welcomed the scheme. “Northern Ireland was an obvious choice for Smoothie Factory to launch our flagship store as it allowed us to easy access to expand not only to other parts of the United Kingdom but to Ireland as well. With soaring energy prices and rising inflation, the financial assistance offered by the Back in Business scheme has been a very welcome support.”
Minister Murphy continued: “These are challenging times for many small businesses. The impact of the pandemic has been followed by the current cost crisis with businesses facing steep energy bills and the impact of rising inflation. Through this scheme, businesses will have certainty over their rates bill for two years and this will help support the regeneration of town centres, creating jobs, boosting footfall and supporting new and existing businesses.
“I hope this rate relief will encourage other businesses and retailers to take the opportunity, knowing they will have discounted rates to pay for the first two years. If the Assembly and Executive are not restored, I will be unable to run the scheme again in 2023/24, so I would encourage businesses thinking of occupying vacant properties to apply well in advance of the end of March 2023.”
Further information on the Back in Business scheme, can be found at www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/backinbusiness.
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