“BID” stands for Business Improvement District. It is a model operated worldwide, and the Scottish Government has been a particularly strong supporter with a department dedicated to the promotion and support of BIDs. The ultimate aim of a BID is to generate increased economic activity, which in a tourism area means increased visitor footfall and, with it, increased spending.
Alastair Noble and Michael Barnett of NICE, Michael Boylan (Chair of the Association of Nairn Businesses (“ANB”) and Michael Green (Elected Highland Councillor) have been collaborating since November 2015 to investigate whether a “BID for Nairnshire” should be established. “BID” stands for Business Improvement District. The work has been fully supported by The Highland Council, and has reached the conclusion that a BID for Nairnshire is highly desirable, if not essential. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (“HIE”) have also given their full support. (See the full BID Press Release here)
An initial “Seedcorn” grant was secured from Scottish Government in May to fund the first phase of the project, and we have recently received “matching” funding commitments from The Highland Council and HIE.
A BID is a business-led initiative where businesses work together and invest collectively in local improvements to their business environment. It should be a partnership between public and private sectors. A BID is not a substitute for central or local government services, but it is a way in which additional funding can be raised, and has the attraction that the businesses decide how to use that funding.
Stripped to its essentials a BID is a five year agreed business plan that operates to a budget, and the payers of a rating levy determine how to spend the levy and any other funding that can be secured. From the research undertaken the typical annual budget for a town of Nairn’s size would be about £150,000, and the typical small business would pay an annual levy in the range £150 to £250. It is not difficult to work out how even quite a modest increase in local visitor footfall will amply repay the annual expense of £250 – perhaps 6 extra visitor nights for a small hotel, and for the area’s service providers (eg butchers and plumbers) a commensurate increase in sales to the hotel owners. Big businesses (eg supermarkets) would pay an annual levy of the order of £5,000.
WHAT ABOUT THE TOWN CENTRE?
Although it has not received much publicity in the last year, there is a plan for the Town Centre, being the output of two public Charrettes hosted by The Highland Council. The “Nairn Town Centre Plan” report was published in October 2015, and records that NICE, the ANB and The Highland Council have committed to working together to deliver it. Through its membership of DTAS (the Development Trusts Association of Scotland), NICE secured a grant from Scottish Government to hire an adviser to take the project forward. The Highland Council and NICE organised events in April to share what was planned with local representative bodies, and NICE will be presenting the Charrette conclusions and the recommendations of its adviser for next steps to the community soon.
The point about the Town Centre Plan is that it is a vital element in the regeneration of Nairn. It is common ground that the town’s centre must act as a “magnet” for visitors, and as a link to the High Street and Nairn’s visitor attractions.
HOW WILL THE BID PROJECT BE MANAGED?
There are two phases. The first is the planning stage funded in part by the Scottish Government “Seedcorn” Grant. This typically takes 15 months and involves preparing a business plan, consulting the business and wider community, and effectively selling the BID concept to the local business community who of course will be paying for it via the levy. At the conclusion of this phase there is a ballot of the business community and certain statutory thresholds have to be exceeded in the vote. If the ballot fails then the BID is not established.
The second phase is after a successful ballot when the BID becomes a reality and the 5 year business plan has to be delivered. By then the potential directors of the BID company will have been identified and the BID company will be established and tasked with delivering its 5 year business plan.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE STEERING GROUP?
We have jointly taken the initiative to steer the project through the first phase. NICE as a company, a Community Body and a registered charity has been able to secure the necessary funding, and has the capacity to enter into contracts. NICE’s role is agreed to be that of facilitator and enabler; the ANB’s Chairman Michael Boylan is the link with business; and Michael Green as a Highland Councillor provides the vital link to the Highland Council and other Elected Councillors.
At a point in time close to the ballot the steering group’s task will have been completed, and it is envisaged that will be when the directors of the new BID company are ready to take the project forward. It is envisaged that beyond that NICE’s role will be supportive in that as a Community Body it represents the community, and as a charity can access funding for community projects that the BID company as a commercial enterprise cannot. In other words, joint working for the benefit of the whole community will happen.
Alastair Noble – Chairman of NICE
Michael Barnett – Secretary of NICE
Michael Boylan – Chairman of the ANB
Michael Green – Highland Councillor