Business owners and managers are on the frontlines of their community. They are neighbours, advocates, stewards and experts in their business environments. Strong business stewardship is the backbone of any thriving community.
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) aim to bring businesses together to share ideas, resources, and expertise to provide services, infrastructure and a collective voice to the community. The strength of this model is in its simplicity. By sharing resources through an accountable, representative local body, businesses take a leading role in improving the local economy. A BID provides a consistent, active voice for the interests of local business and a means to improve the wider community.
As the newly appointed Project Manager for the consultation on such an initiative in the Old Town, I am excited to champion the merits of the BID model. Our Steering Group is actively working to bring the Old Town business community together to foster a new vision for the Old Town local economy. This vision will address concerns that the business community highlights as priorities such as providing a cleaner, safer environment for employees, residents and visitors. An Old Town BID will also bring about new investment and opportunities for the community, creating more strategic partnerships to make the most of levies as well as attracting new funding through corporate sponsorships and grants.
With a new year and a fresh start, alongside the Steering Group members, I am committed to collaboratively developing an honest, attainable business plan that puts the Old Town’s needs first and works first and foremost at the direction of the business community. Above all, we must put forward a Business Plan that is reflective of the vision of the business community and provides good value for money across all sectors and scales. I look forward to speaking with local businesses about ways we can come together to improve their business environment and make a meaningful impact on the look and feel of the Old Town.
In a time where key issues are coming to the fore on local, regional and national scales, it is more imperative now than ever that a singular voice representing the Old Town business community, as dictated by the Old Town business community, is working hard to maintain and improve all aspects of living and working within the neighbourhood. A BID will provide representation of business interests on council matters, and in working with other public, private and third-party agencies.
I have spent more than five years working with local business initiatives and managing Business Improvement organisations, and have seen first hand the vital improvements that can be made when business representatives come together to bring about positive change. Essential Edinburgh has provided a fine example of some of the many services a BID can provide, including addressing “safe and clean” concerns with the provision of a dedicated BID police officer, and a Clean Team. There are many areas where an Old Town BID could learn from these examples while ensuring the unique needs of the historic Old Town are met. With meaningful improvement being made just beyond our doorstep, it is imperative that we work together as a community to ensure that the Old Town is not falling behind.
With a sustainable funding model, clearly defined goals, and transparent governance an Old Town BID will provide vital services, bring new investment and amplify the voice of business to those in positions of influence.
Jocelyne Fleming is project manager for the Old Town BID consultation