A new direction for BIDs
Continuing the theme of the evolution of BIDs beyond a traditional ‘green, clean and safe’ remit, we focus on Business Improvement Districts that are developing an Inward Investment focus for their activities.
The term Inward Investment is currently being used broadly to cover a wide range of activities – from informal property searches for prospective new businesses in an area, to big budget international promotions. There are also many examples of BIDs that are delivering services that could be classed as inward investment, but are not currently packaging this up as such to their members.
Following the example of some of the major US city BIDs, where inward investment and international promotion has long been a part of their offer to members, UK BIDs are increasingly starting to regard this as a priority. The arrival of property owner BIDs in London is seen as a particular driving force in this respect, but some of the most prominent examples can be seen outside the Capital.
The Liverpool BID Company has become increasingly focused on positioning the commercial core of the city as a site for new investment. A heightened focus by the City Council on the wider city region as opposed to the city centre, as well as the establishment of the Commercial District BID in 2011 with its greater preponderance of professional service firms than the existing retail and leisure focused City Central BID, was a driving force in the development of this activity, which formed a key part of the Commercial District BID’s recent renewal proposals.
The BID is a Member of Liverpool in London, the city’s inward investment office in the capital, and has promoted opportunities to its members to use the space as a base from which to network and secure their own investment.
Additionally the BID has been involved in events such as the International Festival for Business, which was hosted in the city in 2014 and is being hosted there again this year. Events such as the International Waterfront Forum have focused on how to harness waterfronts as assets for driving economic growth.
Mike Doran, Head of Communications at the Liverpool BID company, is clear that this is ‘just the beginning of a journey’ for the BID. The BID is increasingly fielding more enquiries and referrals from businesses looking to locate in the city and will be focusing over the next 18 months on promotions for the city centre that will demonstrate real impact for the city and the BID’s members in turn.
Inward investment is far from being a big-BID big-budget issue. Ipswich Central’s visioning and inward investment plans have recently been featured in a fDi (Financial Times) publication called ‘Europe’s Leading Lights’, which highlights destinations with the greatest potential for investment that are attracting the attention of multi-nationals.
Ipswich Central was a driving force behind the Vision for Ipswich document profiled in the fDi publication. The BID was instrumental in galvanising partners in the town to focus on inward investment matters and get behind a programme for its future development.
The New West End Company is another example of a BID that has a well developed and growing programme of Inward Investment activity. The BID’s ground-breaking work on streamlining the visa application process for visitors from China was featured in the 2015 British BIDs ‘proud projects’ awards. However, its activity in this area has also included projects such as its ‘Bond Street By Appointment’ scheme, a travel concierge service for high net worth individuals providing curated shopping itineraries. The scheme was launched at the International Luxury Travel Market conference in Shanghai, following which the scheme later partnered with British Airways to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the airline flying the London-Shanghai route.
The BID has recently commissioned the Global Retail Destination Index 2016 with Savills, which ranks the West End against the main shopping destinations in other major cities to determine its attractiveness from a visitor and retailer perspective. Inward investment in this respect has equal relevance for occupiers, consumers and potential investors.
Jace Tyrrell, Interim Chief Executive at the New West End Company, echoes the views of the Liverpool BID Company that Inward Investment is ‘a new development for BIDs and one that will increasingly become a priority’. The BID is close to securing £10m investment for Bond Street that is anticipated to lift turnover by 15% and property values by 10%, representing a major win for both the property- and occupier- BID members.
This focus on BIDs as drivers of inward investment seems set to continue and is an issue that will be followed closely in coming editions.