The need for rejuvenation of Kempsey's Central Business District (CBD) is becoming clearer with the number of empty shopfronts rising.
Local business operators, the Macleay Valley Business Chamber (MVBC), and Kempsey Shire Council (KSC) all share a concern of the place becoming a 'ghost town' with the number of unattended shops.
The MVBC says the presence of empty shops in the shire's CBD is a matter of concern as it not only affects the aesthetic appeal of the town centre but also has broader implications for local economic health and community spirit.
"Empty storefronts can create a perception of economic downturn, which can deter new businesses from setting up in the area and reduce foot traffic, further impacting existing businesses," said President, Macleay Valley Business Chamber, Jarrod Lipscombe.
"This creates a cycle that can be challenging to break."
MVBC believes a collaborative approach involving local businesses, community members, and government bodies is essential.
"One suggestion is to implement a "Revitalise Kempsey" initiative," said Mr Lipscombe.
" This could include incentives for new businesses to occupy vacant spaces, such as reduced rents or rates for a certain period or grants for refurbishing older buildings.:"
Mr Lipscombe says such incentives could attract a diverse range of businesses, including start-ups, which could bring fresh energy and innovation to the area.
The MVBC proposes the organisation of community events and markets in the CBD to draw residents and visitors, increasing foot traffic and supporting local businesses.
"These events not only serve as a business booster but also help in fostering community spirit and pride."
Mr Lipscombe says further support from State Government for investment in infrastructure and beautification projects for the CBD is crucial.
"Improved public amenities, green spaces, and parking facilities can make the area more attractive to both businesses and customers."
The MVBC is also encouraging landlords and real estate agents to be mindful of the local issues.
The MVBC is committed to working alongside all stakeholders to rejuvenate the CBD.
"We believe that with combined efforts and strategic planning, we can transform these challenges into opportunities for growth and revitalisation," said Lipscombe.
Alex Henley, Manager Economic Development and Tourism says Kempsey Shire Council shares community concerns about empty shopfronts.
"As part of our commitment to build an inspired, connected Macleay Valley, we work with the local business community to help to foster sustainable economic development," she said.
Ms Henley says over the past year, KSC have engaged with local businesses on this topic.
"We understand they want a more activated space in the CBD of Kempsey to encourage social interaction among community members and an increase in foot traffic leading to economic growth for local businesses to thrive."
"This has resulted in Council managing the Streets of Shared Spaces - Kempsey Laneways Revitalisation Project and the associated events."
The laneway art in Kempsey CBS was recently nominated for a national award.
"Additionally, Council recently submitted an application for funding on a project that focuses on engagement with the local business and community to develop further activated spaces in the CBD of Kempsey," said Ms Henley.
"More broadly, we are working with the Department of Regional NSW Investment team to help entice businesses to come to the Kempsey Shire."
Ms Henley says council also provides support for the Crazy Day Sale and the Christmas markets in the CBD.