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Traders unveil their vision for the future
Thursday, 05 December 2013
AXMINSTER’S reinvigorated Chamber of Commerce has unveiled its vision for the future.
Newly-elected chairman Lisa Lyman chaired an open meeting at the Senior Citizen’s Centre on Thursday evening when she revealed a number of new initiatives to boost trade and make Axminster a more lively town in which to work and live.
Mrs Lyman told the meeting, attended by around 20 people: “When you take the time to look at Axminster one of its greatest strengths is that it is full of wonderful small, independent businesses run by local people, many of whom come from families that have been here for generations.
“When Carpets went into administration, instead of falling apart, our community got stronger. We have many organisations all doing a great job, but it feels like no-one is dealing with those issues that make up our everyday conversation.
“The Chamber Committee have been working hard behind the scenes coming up with projects and getting the ball rolling. We are ready now (and excited) to invite you to join us and find ways to do something about those issues.
“We don’t have a magic wand, we may not be able to resolve them all, but we are working hard to find ways to make improvements.”
Among the initiatives the Chamber of Commerce would like to introduce are:
A request to Axminstrer Town Council to purchase flower baskets for businesses and residents to sponsor, following the example set Chard Town Council last summer.
Setting up a maintenance team of volunteers to make sure the flowers and flower beds are kept healthy and to keep signs and pavements clean.
u More flags decorated by different people and organisations with the suggestion that Axminster could create a world record for the most flags in one town.
Reforming the Christmas Lights Commitee and have a major fundriasing drive starting in January to improve the town’s festive illuminations.
u Upgrading the old blue services signs on the A35 and improving the “Welcome To Axminster” with flowers planted around them.
u The possibility of more markets, perhaps on a Saturday morning, discussions having already taken place with “Lord of The Manor” Jim Rowe, who holds the market rights, with the possibility of a French Market coming to town on Saturday, December 14th.
More events to celebrate the history of Axminster, possibly an eight-day market to coincide with the “Glove Is Up” ceremony, and re-enactment of past events.
u The creation of a new community-based website on Axminster.org with more information for visitors.
The production of a town guide after a lapse of three years, a project which is already underway and will be published in March.
Referring to some of these events, Mrs Lyman said: “By dressing all the areas of the town with flowers and flags they will guide people around the corners and to the ends of our town where shopkeepers feel left out.
“We need to make sure our town looks loved, just like our own homes. There’s no point complaining that the council should be doing it. Let’s get on with it ourselves!”
Mrs Lyman also commented on the current Christmas lights policy.
“Many people don’t realise that the chamber members have purchased the white LED Christmas lights,” she contimnued. “Some businesses purchasd Christmas trees to go in the flag poles.
“The LED lights stay up year round because it was decided that instead of paying £600 to put them up/take them down it would be better to purchase more lights at around £250 each and businesses pay for the electricity.
“The town council pays for the lights on the trees on Minster Green. Maybe we could re-create the Christmas Lights Committee and have a major fundraising drive starting in January. Nick Goodwin, our Town Crier, has volunteered to get this started.
Huge financial undertaking
“Our neighbours are creating fantastic Christmas shopping events and we need to do the same, so we welcome ideas for next year.”
Mrs Lyman also referred to the “huge financial underatking” of keeping the Tourist Information Centre open.
She told the meeting: “We are looking for creative ways to have the centre open 10am to 4pm year round and be financially self-sufficient.
“Many members of the community rely on the centre throughout the year and we would like to provide that service.
“We would very much like to give the centre a facelift with a coat of paint inside and out, move the desk to the front room and reorganise how information is presented. In the New Year we will be creating a sponsorship package for businesses and local people to help keep the doors open longer.”
Commenting on plans to open up the chamber to members of the public, and not just those who runs businesses in the town, Mrs Lyman said: “I don’t have a business but I’m passionate about Axminster.
“Axminster is unique. It is very much a community driven town with families and businesses going back generations. Our businesses are run by members of our community, and members of our community support our businesses.
“And who doesn’t need passion? So many people come up to me with ideas, suggestions and a desire to help, but don’t seem to have an organisation they can join.
“Well, we’re very happy to have you on board with our new community membership. We need all the help and support we can get to accomplish our goals and projects.
“Many small business owners are in their businesses six days a week so can’t always offer hands-on help that is necessary with a lot of our projects. Some tasks are as simple as putting bollards out in Trinity Square the night before a market.”
And she concluded: “We believe that Axminster is a unique town and whilst a chamber is usually focussed on businesses, we believe that our strong community should be our focus.
“We hope to co-ordinate our many community organisations to bring their strengths and interests together to work on a variety of projects.
“We hope to increase our membership and encourage people to join our teams. The larger our membership is the more we can accomplish.
“As you can see we intend to be a very active group within the community and look forward to raising Axminster’s profile. But - and it is a big but, we cannot do it alone. The more help we have the more we can achieve. Axminster Chamber of Commerce and Industry, working with you, for you.”
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