Ian Davison Porter: Reinforcing front line of entrepreneurship

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Business Improvement Districts Scotland has published its first national report.

Highlighting their key contribution to local economies and helping to build stronger sustainable communities, it finds that business improvement districts (BIDs) have already leveraged more than £16m of investment over and above the £17m collected from levies, are set to increase significantly in number as further BIDs develop while adding to the 52 directly employed posts created and the estimated 220 jobs resulting from annual project spend.

Launched in 2008, West Lothian’s Enterprising Bathgate and the capital’s Essential Edinburgh were the first of five Scottish pilots.

Through strong local public-private sector partnerships, Lothians BIDs, now joined by Greater Grassmarket and Queensferry Ambition, as well as others the length and breadth of Scotland, are delivering across a diverse range of issues. They are meeting the concerns of local businesses and communities and contributing to local and national government economic objectives, helping create localities that are wealthier and fairer, smarter, healthier, safer and stronger, and greener.

With 21 operational and 24 developing BIDs including Linlithgow and Edinburgh’s West End, today, Scotland’s BIDs are the fastest growing in the UK.

Their success is put down to the provision of national body, BIDs Scotland, as a central resource, start-up seedcorn grants, and the Scottish Government’s unwavering support.

Local government and planning minister Derek Mackay said: “The BID initiative is growing and has a direct link to the government’s purpose of supporting sustainable economic growth. The BID model is particularly relevant in the current economic climate. Its flexibility enables the private and public sectors to work together and invest in improvements to the local business environment, while contributing to the wider regeneration of the local community. Businesses also benefit from sharing good practice across BID areas.”

Business and community benefits are increasingly evident, with shining examples across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Queensferry Ambition is a leading light in an holistic approach to the BID, with its ground-breaking school and community training and employment projects; while at the same time playing host to The Forth Bridges Festival 2014 which will attract more than 100,000 local, national and international visitors.

A second-term “yes” for the Capital’s BID, Essential Edinburgh, was no surprise – their businesses enjoyed cost savings in excess of £205,000, and stand to gain from the £1 million marketing fund secured to “re-launch” the city centre on completion of the tram project. Never before has such a fund been gathered and Essential Edinburgh is playing a leading role in the delivery of this project.

Scotland’s first BID, Enterprising Bathgate, delivered public realm improvements in excess of £600,000 during its first term. It now plans to continue with improvements for businesses and the community, in particular the continuation of the popular property improvement scheme, which saw £1.4m in improvements on its £170,000 investment grants.

Newest of the region’s BIDs, Greater Grassmarket, has undertaken extensive rebranding, a clean-up campaign and with events supremo Unique Events brought a £70,000 St Andrews event to the area.

Forecasts predict 50 BIDs in operation and development by the end of 2014 and 150 by 2020. The message is loud and clear – BIDs work. The final word from Phil Prentice, Scotland’s Towns Partnership vice-chair – “If you have a BID, keep it! If you haven’t got a BID, get one!” Phil is East Renfrewshire Council’s economic development and regeneration manager – with five BIDs in operation and development.

• Ian Davison Porter is the BIDs Scotland director. The National Report on BIDs in Scotland and further information about BIDs is available at www.bids-scotland.com