Why BIDs are vital to our towns and city centres
Kathleen McBride, managing director of the city centre's Business Improvement District Belfast One, which has launched its business plan for the next five years, explains the role of BIDS in Northern Ireland and how 650 city centre businesses will benefit from supporting a second term
FIVE years ago the first Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) were launched in Northern Ireland, and now three of them, including Belfast One, are asking businesses in their area to re-elect them.
BIDs, not-for-profit bodies financed by a small levy calculated on a business' rateable value, are vital to our towns and city centres. especially now as we consider how to support our businesses' recovery after the pandemic.
Running worldwide for over 20 years, BIDS are a proven regeneration tool providing investment and giving businesses, working with public agencies, more control of their trading environment.
There are eight in Northern Ireland including Belfast One, which covers the BT1 area. Others include Newry and Ballymena, both also currently seeking re-ballot.
Since 2015, at Belfast One we've invested in projects including Belfast Restaurant Week and seasonal events like Santa's Post Office and outdoor Summer Cinema, to attract more visitors into the city centre.
Our Clean Team has removed over 25 tonnes of litter and over 1,800 pieces of graffiti since 2017. Belfast One is also the main funder of two PSNI City Centre Beat officers, delivering over 20,000 hours of additional policing to benefit our businesses.
Even while many businesses have been shut during lockdown, the work of the BID hasn't stopped, with the City Centre Beat officers ensuring that premises are safe and secure, and the Clean Team have increased specialised cleansing, with a focus on shop fronts, disinfecting and power washing.
We have also continued to support businesses with an information hub to highlight support and guidance available and free online training workshops. Our most successful initiative, the Belfast City Centre Gift Card, will continue to support businesses during lockdown, and when they reopen.
In the next five years we want to secure £4.5m investment to work in partnership with key organisations, including Belfast City Council, Belfast Chamber of Commerce and the PSNI, ensuring continued improvements to the city centre.
We plan to act as an agent of change to create growth and employment and to help sustain the city as a major engine of the economy.
Our plan is focussed on three clear elements - promote, enhance and support.
We will promote businesses by driving footfall through events when it is safe to do and by supporting the evening economy.
We will enhance the city by delivering projects which improve the visitor experience and will help businesses thrive in a positive trading environment.
We will continue to drive down business costs and offer practical support like workshops and training.
Sustainability is also a key focus as we offer more competitive services to our levy payers to encourage increased recycling.
To make all this happen we need our 650 city centre businesses to support our re-ballot by returning their papers by March 25.
Together we will work to support our businesses' recovery, to make the city cleaner, safer and greener, and a more attractive place for visitors and businesses to invest, work and relax.