There are now more than 200 Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) and they are seen as the future for town centres.
Here are 16 things about BedfordBID for 2016.
1/ Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are seen as the future for town centres. Bedford was one of the first 12 to pilot the project in 2005.
2/ BedfordBID is now in its third term - one of the few to have worked well by putting business interests high on the agenda of public service providers. It is voted for by town centre organisations.
3/ The biggest businesses support the smallest via the BID. The smallest outlets do not pay the levy but still benefit from the activities and can take part in promotions. For most independents the levy amounts a only few hundred pounds a year.
4/ The council is only the collection agency for the levy, the money is passed directly to the BID. The independent BID board decides how the money is spent against the Business Plan. The council does not dictate how they money is spent.
5/ Board members are volunteers from levy-paying businesses who are paid no extra money to give up their time to support the activity of the BID. One of the representatives is from the local authority. The BID has full-time Director of Operations, two office staff and 4 Bluecaps.
6/ BedfordBID is an experienced team who know the town centre inside-out. The Bluecaps are an example copied by other BIDs who aspire to have hands-on helpers linking visitors to businesses.
7/ The award winning BedfordBID Town Centre Retail RadioLink & Exclusion Scheme unites the BID, Bluecaps, businesses and CCTV which means up to the minute information can be shared about incidents and activities. In addition the BID pays for the Taxi Marshalls who make sure visitors head home safely after a night out. Best Bar None sponsorship is another way of encouraging professional in customer care and service among pubs and clubs. BedfordBID also subsidises training for bar staff in the BIIAB Level 1 Award in responsible Alcohol Retailing.
8/ BID Business Breakfasts are a forum for businesses to speak directly to those who can influence trading environments including the local MP, the Mayor, and in February 2016: The Police Crime Commissioner.
9/ BedfordBID supports and sponsors projects which benefit levy-paying businesses in the town centre. It is not a substitute fund where public sector cuts have been made. However IF a project is proven to boost footfall to levy-payers, then the Board may decide to make funds available.
10/ The John Bunyan Boat has been a great example of a BID-supported project which has raised the profile of the town to potential visitors and has taken more than 10,000 trippers on river journeys.
11/ Arts activities have been sponsored by the BID over the years - but support one year does not guarantee year after year funding. The Arts Council and other publicly-funded bodies exist to fund such community activities.
12/ Education and training is not the remit of the BID - but is does have close ties with major levy-payers the world-renowned educational establishments The Harpur Trust and Bedford College which both recognise the value of a thriving heart of Bedford
13/ Love Bedford Vouchers put money straight back into local tills - including those of independents who are often not allowed to join national voucher schemes. Ask for BedfordBid Love Bedford vouchers from Bedford Swan Hotel reception or Travel & Tourism Office at Bedford Bus Station. The target of £1 Million worth of vouchers sold is on the horizon.
14/ lovebedford.co.uk is THE biggest website promoting Bedford to visitors near and far. It is the biggest hitter in terms of visitors who are really interested in knowing what’s on and when in town. It gives independents a platform to promote themselves to a wide audience they may struggle to reach within the limits of their individual resources.
15/ lovebedford@twitter has more than 6,000 followers and the Love Bedford FB shares information from businesses about their events and activities. Links to all Love Bedford social media is shared across all channels including print thanks to the central marketing fund.
16/ The first Love Bedford Day is being staged in 2016 on Sunday July 24th and will include a series of celebrations and events to encourage people to visit the town.