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Business News Wales Exclusive: What Role do City BID Projects Play Within the Development of Local Economies?

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With the ongoing development and success of the Business Improvement District projects (BIDs), we asked our expert panel of business people for their opinions on the initiative.  The process involves businesses working together to agree improvements they feel could be made in their city centre. BIDs are financed and controlled by the businesses within the selected area. A key part of the decision includes how the improvements will be implemented and at what cost.

“What Role do City BID Projects Play Within the Development of Local Economies?”

Cardiff BID

Adrian Field | Chief Executive

Projects like Cardiff BID play a significant role for a city’s local economy; in fact, they can’t even come into being without being voted on by local businesses. 84% of businesses that voted in Cardiff were in favour of Cardiff BID and helped kick-start our five-year plan in 2016.

Perhaps the most important way BID projects help in developing local economy is by giving the businesses in the area a voice. By allowing Cardiff BID to find out what is affecting their trade and commit to helping with solutions, businesses are leading the way in their own development and making sure the money they are investing in the BID is being put to good use.

The purpose of the BID is to encourage people to visit the city centre more often, stay longer and in turn, invest more in the local economy. By investing their time and in us, businesses are recognising Cardiff’s potential for change and the wheels are already in motion.

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Swansea BID

Russell Greenslade | Chief Executive

In the relatively short time BIDS have been active across British city centres they have really proven their value.

Swansea BID was the first Business Improvement District established in Wales and this status has given us an incentive to prove ourselves to be a ‘leader of the pack’ when it comes to innovative thinking and practical support for the local economy.

During the Swansea BID tenure we have launched the incredibly successful Big Heart of Swansea Brand – the little red loyalty card and app that brings shoppers into the city centre by offering fantastic savings and deals.  We have organised and hosted more than 60 events to boost foot flow in the City Centre. We have also, alongside our partners in the Safer Swansea Partnership, brought about a 45.7 percent reduction in alcohol related disruption, and we have delivered savings of more than £1,000 per day for NCP Parkpass users.  These are all tangible benefits that impact the local economy – and people’s lives – in a meaningful way. Remember that these results have been delivered during some of the most challenging times for our High Streets.

Of course, Swansea is now entering another chapter in its story and it is one which may require a different approach – one which is, perhaps, less about trouble-shooting and more about being a key voice and a main driver behind the ongoing regeneration which will be brought about by the City Deal.

Swansea BID is already playing a part in this, by being the voice of its 850-plus businesses and organisations, so no-one feels left behind during these exciting times for the city of Swansea

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Newport Now BID

Kevin Ward | Manager

The most important point to remember about BIDs is they allow businesses themselves to determine the future of the area in which they trade.

The Newport Now BID website – newportnow.co.uk – carries a simple but effective message across all its pages: Local businesses improving our city centre.

And that is the essence of a BID.

It is financed by the businesses that form its membership. Those members decide what they want the BID to deliver over a five-year term and a board of directors made up of businesses large and small oversee that delivery.

In Newport, the BID organises city centre events throughout the year including the Christmas lights switch-on, provides grants for shopfront improvements, helps businesses save money on their bills, and employs Ambassadors to liaise with members and to help provide a safe and secure trading environment.

Wales’ three biggest cities now have their central business areas represented by BIDs and they are delivering projects that businesses want.

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Barclays

Karen Thomas | Head of Business and Corporate Banking

Business improvement Districts provide a vehicle for businesses in a defined area to enhance the local trading environment with the aim of encouraging vibrant high streets and business growth.

Whilst initially the activities may have been more focused on street cleaning, local security etc some BIDs are now playing a more strategic role and there is evidence that this will continue as local authorities see continued pressure on budgets.

As a BID requires the majority support of businesses it can be a great way to encourage businesses to work together and local key business professionals to get involved. From Barclays perspective we see a number of our colleagues actively supporting BIDs and it’s a great way for us to really understand the local economies within which we operate.

As with all successful groups though, the success will be dependent on getting buy in from the majority of the local businesses, the quality of the business plan and on-going monitoring.

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Alistair WardellGrant Thornton

Alistair Wardell | Lead Partner

The effects of BIDs can vary significantly depending on their size, location and mix of stakeholders but any project that seeks to innovate, connect and support communities with an outcome of improvements, increased productivity and economic growth should be welcomed.

To ensure overall success and to maximise the influence of any BID I believe there needs to be a strong degree of accountability to promote good governance and robust management, amongst trusted partners tasked with delivering the expected revitalised outcome.

We are lucky in Cardiff that we have a progressive council that have seen the potential of developing a well-connected business centre in Cardiff City centre. I personally believe this will have a big impact in the coming years in attracting professional organisations to set up in Cardiff. I believe this will do for the business community in Cardiff what St David’s 2 has done for the retail community.

Having read in some reports that Cardiff is now the fastest growing UK city and is projected to grow by 26% by 2034 it appears the City BID could be instrumental in helping to achieve this and potentially more. Importantly, there would be a spin-off from such positivity with the impact of more jobs, better housing, regeneration and innovative technology reaching beyond Cardiff to Caerphilly, Bridgend and Newport. Overall, I think it’s a big positive and we should be embracing the opportunity.

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Business in the Community Cymru (BITC)

Matt Appleby | Director

BITC Cymru has seen the positive impacts that Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) can play in supporting town centres and local economies. For example, the BID teams from Newport and Swansea both successfully steered through applications to become two of Business in the Community’s Healthy High Streets – two of eight in Wales and of 100 locations across the UK – a programme which brings nationally recognisable brands like Boots, EE, Greggs, Wilko, M&S and Santander together with local teams to share experience, skills and work collaboratively on increasing footfall, reducing empty units and bringing jobs back to the high street. By working in partnership – both at a local and regional level – and bringing businesses, stakeholders, local authorities and communities together at scale, a greater positive impact can be achieved. At BITC Cymru we put this idea of convening at the heart of our activity and from what we’ve seen, arrangements such as the Swansea Bay and Cardiff City Deals have embraced this approach as well.

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Matthew Sutton - Greenaway ScottGreenaway Scott

Matt Sutton | Director

Business Improvement Districts (BID) projects play a very big role in the development of local economies. BID projects provide an opportunity for local economies to bring local businesses together to work towards collectively improving their sector specific business environment which will in turn bring further investment and jobs to the surrounding area. The BID project itself provides local economies with a sustainable form of funding through local individual projects which have already proven to have a massive impact on the development of cities such as Swansea and Cardiff.

Swansea in particular is certainly leading the way in city BID projects, having recently agreed a deal which could deliver several advanced projects in the Swansea Bay City Region over a period of 15 years. Cardiff has also recently unveiled plans to improve the local economy with a £7.5 million BID investment

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Alex Parr - WolfestoneWolfestone

Alex Parr | Managing Director

As a company based in Swansea city centre, we have noticed a positive impact on the local economy from BID projects. The city centre has developed into a desirable location for employees and an exciting prospect for new business.

Unique, innovative and diverse businesses are opening throughout the city and one-off events like food festivals are becoming more commonplace. This is thanks in-part to the five-year BID project instilling confidence in local businesspeople that the city centre will continue to develop and thrive through funding, and this is attractive to all manner of businesses.

Wolfestone is a prime example. The translation industry is primarily online-based, but when looking for a new, larger office location in November of last year, we were automatically drawn to the newly developed Urban Village on High Street. We have since grown our workforce and strengthened client relationships due to the ease of access and modern facilities at our new location.

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Business Doctors

Graham Leslie Morgan | Managing Director

Business Improvement Districts have proved successful in many parts of the globe since they first appeared in Canada back in the1970’s. As a concept that seek the support of businesses within a particular Town or City Centre to contribute towards the destiny of the community they operate within.

The key to success will very much be down to the Executive and Board appointed and their ability to quickly assess the dynamics of individual urban centres and what needs to change for business owners to reap the rewards they seek. What is important in my view is that there is a very clear plan that embraces the creativity, innovation and footprint of the individual Town or City. This is absolutely not about lifting and shifting a range of activities that have taken place in one BID and applying it to another situation. At the centre of success is total ownership by all if they are going to get the economic benefits of increased business turnover and associated profit that is on offer!!

In Wales we have an excellent example of the Swansea BID that has stood the test of time since it was conceptualised in 2006. The success is down to:

  • Really understanding what goes on in the City Centre – the good, the bad and the ugly and working out how to tackle situations and in which order.
  • Total Engagement with Traders and business owners generally.
  • Collaborative/Partnership approach with all parties that have vested interest. Connecting Public Sector, Private Sector and Academia in pursuit of objectives.
  • Monitoring and reviewing what is achieved.
  • Constantly seeking constant improvement and not settling for status Quo.

The vibrancy, energy, innovation, creativity and focus is very much down to the leadership and having a strategic Plan set over the 3 year cycle associated with community support voting. As new BID’s fall into place across Wales there is a success story to follow with what the Team have achieved in Swansea but ultimate success is very much down to individual plans for individual High Streets and the real energy the leadership in each location must apply!!