The Business Improvement District (BID) Programme

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The Onehunga Business Association operates under the policy and guidelines provided for Business Improvement Districts, as established by the former Auckland City Council.

What is a Business Improvement District programme?

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are partnerships between council and the business sector. BID programmes are funded by target rates applied to commercial properties within a defined boundary area. Council collects the BID target rate and distributes the funds to business associations who deliver the BID Programme in their area.

BID initiatives support local employment and business development. Examples of projects include local promotion and marketing, events, business networking, advocacy, training, capability building, websites, safety and security, cleanliness, signage and local amenity improvements. Within the Auckland Council area there are 40 existing town centre BIDs and 6 industrial BIDs. Between them, these represent over 25,000 businesses.

BIDs differ from voluntary business associations because they have sustainable funding generated from a target rate. This allows them to employ staff and deliver projects at a higher level than can be provided by volunteers.

 

The BID framework was developed as an alternative to the earlier Mainstreet framework.

The intention of the BID is to better address the needs of business development communities and business centres which are not retail-focused as the Mainstreet framework tends to be. The formation of a BID is premised upon the understanding that place-based problems and issues demand place-based responses.

Basic objectives of the programme are:

  • business creation and development
  • increased employment and local business investment
  • an enhanced physical environment
  • identify and promote the profile of a commercial and industrial district or business centre.

The BID policy is primarily operational in focus.

It specifies the structures and processes to ensure the successful running of BID programmes. Auckland City Council adopted the BID policy in August 2008. (The new Auckland Council is currently updating its BID policy framework following its 2010 amalgamation.)

 

Programme application

The BID programmes are funded through a BID targeted rate collected from local businesses within a defined geographical BID area and are an important element in sustaining Auckland’s economic growth. They build on the distinctive character of Auckland’s commercial centres and business districts – as well as the energy and skills of the people who have businesses there.

The programme focuses on four main areas of activity as follows:

Business development
It is important to strengthen the district’s existing economic base while finding ways to expand it to meet new opportunities and changes in the retail and economic climate of the region and country. Regardless of how the local economy is operating in relation to the national trends, the BID must continually consider ways in which the area’s assets and offerings can be improved and maximised.

The core principles of business creation, attraction, retention and expansion should be applied. These may include but are not limited to networking, best practice, business-to-business development and developing a business centre prospectus for potential investors and tenants.

Strategic management
The BID programme is to be managed and administered through an elected committee which provides direction and governance. The governing committee defines the function, statement of intent and role of the BID organisation.

The BID manager undertakes the day-to-day running of the organisation. The programme management also includes the roles of sub-committees, developing coalitions and partnerships, public relations, communication, financial management and reporting. It further includes building consensus and cooperation among the many groups and individuals who have a role to play in the BID programme.

The strategic direction identified by the committee and the implementation of that on a day-to-day basis is core to getting business, strategic partners and council working together for the benefit of the BID.

Promotion, events and marketing
This involves marketing the commercial centre and business district’s assets to customers, potential investors, new business, local citizens and visitors through special events and promotions.

However, marketing of the BID should not be limited to events. There also needs to be active place marketing and branding of the area. This would include developing a dedicated website with business listings, a member’s information area, as well as a news and events section.

Another key activity undertaken by the BID is advocating on behalf of the district to assist in achieving its outcomes.

Each BID should develop a series of key messages about the activities and benefits of the programme so that members are fully informed about what to expect from their targeted rate contribution. All media about the BID including the website should emphasise these key benefits and initiatives.

Acknowledgement of the contribution to the programme by the local businesses beyond the committee members is essential to ensure full engagement by all ratepayers.

Urban design and heritage environment
This includes coordinating physical improvements to enhance the image of the district, promoting what it has to offer and providing a secure and clean environment. This involves encouraging appropriate new construction, long term planning and developing sensitive design management systems.

Historic environment conservation, capitalising on the historic significance and assets of the district can be used as a way to establish an identity and profile for the area. To achieve this, the district may look to encourage the rehabilitation and conservation of heritage buildings and streetscapes, appropriate signage and encourage sympathetic new development in centres with a significant heritage resource.

This focus should also take into account CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) principles and work towards achieving a safe and clean business environment. Maintenance and security measures contribute to the achievement of this aspect of the programme.

 

The critical factor in making a BID programme work for the community is that all four areas must be given full consideration, and be developed and promoted together. The annual programme of work should reflect the immediate priorities for the district and be able to be measured against the long-term strategic plan.

 

Approach

The programme application is most successful when combined with the following approach:

Comprehensive: A single project cannot revitalise a commercial district or business centre. An ongoing series of initiatives are needed to build community support and create lasting progress.

Continuous improvement: As technology and methods of business operation change constantly, there is a need to ensure that the committee and manager are consistently looking at how they can improve the output and operation of the programme in their area. Keeping up to date with international and national trends will inform this improvement.

Capacity building: Activities which strengthen the knowledge, abilities, skills and behaviour of the businesses in the area as well as the committee and BID staff. This will assist the organisation to achieve its core objectives. Learning activities and events may include organisational development, the elaboration of management structures, processes and procedures, skills and access to information, and other training that enables the BID community members to perform effectively.

Professional development: Encourage the continued professional development of BID staff in the areas of skills and knowledge acquisition. This should include attendance at industry-related conferences, keeping up to date with industry standards and international best practice, and attending management courses and workshops where relevant, including those facilitated by Auckland City Council.

Measurement of progress: Accountability for use of public funds to ratepayers and the Council must be in tangible and measurable forms. Developing Key Performance Indicators against the strategic plan goals and measuring the staff’s performance against these is essential best practice for all BIDs.

Incremental: A step-by-step approach should be used to achieve improvements over time. Most programmes are viewed as being long-term commitments where benefits will be gained over a number of years.

Grass-roots commitment and community buy-in: Local leadership can initiate long-term success by fostering and demonstrating community involvement and commitment to the revitalisation effort. Communication is an essential tool to ensure that the stakeholders and specifically the business community are fully aware of the initiatives which are being undertaken in the district through the BID programme.

Public/private partnership: Every local BID programme needs the support and expertise of both the public and private sectors. For an effective partnership, each must recognise the others’ roles, strengths and weaknesses.

Identifying and capitalising on existing assets: Business communities should be encouraged to recognise and make the best use of their unique assets. Local assets provide the solid foundation for a successful initiative. Every area has a distinct character or specialised function which should be harnessed and built on.

Quality: With the emphasis on improving all elements of a BID, all projects should be undertaken with a view to achieving high quality outcomes, particularly from a sustainability and legacy perspective. It is essential that when making investment decisions that whole of life costs of the investment are considered for budgeting and resource purposes. This may require liaison with council on key projects.

Change: Changing community attitudes and habits are essential to bringing about renewal in commercial centres and business districts. A carefully planned BID programme will help shift public perceptions and practices to support and sustain the revitalisation process. Communication is a critical factor in gaining support for changes.

Action-oriented: Frequent visible changes to the look and activities of the district will reinforce the perception of positive change. Small, but dramatic improvements early in the process will remind the stakeholders that the revitalisation and development effort is under way.

For additional information on BIDs
See Auckland Council’s resources here.

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