Carrick could become ‘Test Town’ for young entrepreneurs

Independent Candidate Jim Brown handed in his nomination papers   INCT 14-432-RM
Independent Candidate Jim Brown handed in his nomination papers INCT 14-432-RM

Mid and East Antrim Council has submtted a funding application to become a Carnegie UK TestTown for young entrepreneurs.

According to a report presented to the council’s Economic Growth and Development Committee on June 15, TestTown is “the UK and Ireland’s biggest accelerator programme for young entrepreneurs with fresh ideas for rejuvenating high streets and town centres.”

The scheme unites groups of entrepreneurs to learn skills and test out their innovations in town centres across the British isles.

Participants receive investment and access to test premises such as vacant shops, stalls, offices and public spaces.

They also receive skills development and mentoring to help them trial their ideas, before moving on to “test trading” with the public.

The businesses with the most potential which offer something new to the town centres could win follow-on investment and support. Additionally, everyone who takes part is offered help to find business or work.

According to the report, TestTown weeks have “doubled footfall” in the towns where they have been held, where they are marketed as “popup enterprise festivals.”

It adds that participating start-ups have taken £45,000 in profits and that vacant units have been let and sold after featuring in the TestTown scheme.

In 2013-14, 1,000 people applied to take part in TestTown at local heats and by progressing to National Finals weeks.

105 young entrepreneurs were selected for spots at test weeks, held in eight towns across the UK.

This year, the Carnegie Trust is looking for 10 towns to partner with, each of which will receive up to £3000 to run a skills development activity that uses the town centre. During winter 2015/16, participants from each of the 10 local heats will be invited to participate in a national final.

After being made aware of the opportunity on May 28, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s application for funding, created in partnership with Carrickfergus Regeneration Partnership, was submitted before the deadline of June 15. At the recent council meeting, officers sought retrospective approval for the joint application.

Vice Chair of the Economic Development Committee Councillor Jim Brown proposed that the committee should retrospectively approve the application. He congratulated council officer Gail Kelly on putting the application together in 18 days, which enabled East Antrim to “get a bite of the cherry.”

His proposal ws seconded by Councillor Mark McKinty. The proposal passed unanimously.