Why businesses must vote ‘yes’ to BID2
And the leaders of the campaign for a “Yes” vote in the ballot of town centre traders are continuing to stress that the achievements of the BID’s first five-year term, which expires next spring, will be lost unless the work is able to carry on.
A supplementary rate, approved in an initial ballot five years ago, has funded �3.3million-worth of initiatives by BID delivery company Ipswich Central.
They money has gone towards improving the town in terms of safety, cleaning, marketing and promotional activity as well as a little blue sky thinking to deliver capital projects and investment for the future.
Some of the high profile initiatives include the Street Rangers, who patrol the streets and have powers to deal with anti-sociable behavior, the appointment of a surveyor to encourage big name retailers to invest in Ipswich (notable successes include White Stuff, Cotswold and Viyella), the cleaning squads who have improved the level of cleanliness and made the town virtually graffiti-free and promotional initiatives to draw people into the town, such as the desk to dinner campaign which encouraged town centre workers to stay longer after working hours.
Since the inception of the BID, however, the economy has gone through the worst recession in a generation.
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Paul Clement, executive director of Ipswich Central, says he understands that businesses have to think very carefully about how to spend their money but believes that they should get behind what is being dubbed “BID2” and vote for it by the November 3 deadline, to help continue the improvement work and ultimately benefit their own organisations.
“The last five years have seen huge changes and challenges and one of the things I am most proud of is that we have listened to the levy payers and changed our activity to suit their business needs,” he said. “Yes we had an original business plan but we have been through the deepest recession since the 30s and what became more important was to adapt, which meant more marketing than anticipated to help the retail constituent and a campaign to attract absent retailers to the town.
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“We do not sit in an ivory tower, we work among the businesses and engage with them at every opportunity.”
The business plan for Bid 2 was officially launched at an event at DanceEast on September 14. It builds on other initiatives announced earlier in the year, following extensive consultation with stakeholders, when Ipswich Central unveiled a new ‘Vision’ placing emphasis on the integration of the town centre and waterfront as a key to future prosperity. It also sees the need to widen the reach of the town’s marketing to raise its profile among major multiples without an outlet here.
“The vision is for a waterfront town centre,” says Paul. “We will continue the work we are doing with the Street Rangers and with our graffiti squad and build on that to give a real sense of purpose and a unique reason to invest and a sense of place.
“We have got the product and the vision and now is the time to ramp up the marketing and create investment for the benefit of everyone; the shoppers, employees, students and visitors, to encourage them to stay longer.”
The team at Ipswich Central has spent the last nine months consulting with local businesses and researching how it can best meet the changing needs of Ipswich.
The zone has been adapted to the changing geography of the town to include the Waterfront as far as the James Hehir Building in one direction and across Stoke Bridge in the other.
The original BID proposal quickly won the support of major employers including law firm Birketts with their chief executive Alistair Lang taking a leading role in promoting the initiative and Paul is delighted that Alistair is once again, backing the bid.
“We met with Alistair nine months ago as we started to prepare for the new ballot and he immediately said he would do what he could to promote Bid 2, which is fantastic for us and shows real endorsement from a major employer who sees the benefit of what we are doing and the achievements so far,” said Paul.
“Ipswich Central is absolutely right to be thinking about the long-term growth and prosperity of the town, and the vision we have cannot be achieved without its continuation,” said Alistair.
“We have spent the last few months listening hard to what BID zone businesses want from us over the next five years and I am completely confident that our final business plan for the future will absolutely deliver what is required.
“I am leading the effort to gain the support we require in the renewal ballot so that their demands become a reality.”
Whilst Paul is confident that the majority of businesses will back Bid 2, his worry is a poor turn out.
“People have to vote for this; not voting is a no vote and the BID and everything we have done will be turned off and that investment lost.
“We have a vision and a delivery plan. Without it nothing will change, and that would be a wasted opportunity.”