Businesses' BID to add extra magic to the capital

In his monthly Western Mail column, Matt Southall, Acorn's Managing Director addresses the Cardiff BID; the latest bid for Wales. 

Last week saw the official launch of the Cardiff Business Improvement District (BID), the most recent scheme of its kind in Wales.

Designed to improve visitors’ experience of the capital, the Cardiff BID will be investing £7.5m into the city over the next five years to help in the transformation of the city centre.

The BID involves 700 businesses and organisations, all keen to make their city as appealing as possible.

The BID is a business-led initiative which brings businesses together to design and implement a programme of projects that they believe will directly benefit their area. With a maximum term of five years, they are controlled and run by the businesses that fund them.

In Wales there are a number of BIDs already in place, or due to start in 2017, and in Swansea the BID, which launched in 2006, has been such a success that it is now into its third five-year term.

For those unfamiliar with the idea, one of the main benefits of the BID process is that they are bespoke to the area carrying them out, meaning that no two BIDs are ever likely to be the same.

In Cardiff, Martyn Phillips, the chief executive of the WRU, launched the city’s BID, and, following four weekends of rugby in the capital, he was perfectly placed to comment on the things that can improve people’s experience of the city.

Magic moments

He spoke about the importance of creating ‘magic moments’ for visitors. This is something that is crucial for all towns and cities in ensuring that visitors return again and again. It doesn’t need to be something huge or costly.

It can be as simple as just finding local people friendly and welcoming, and can result in visitors leaving the city with a positive feeling.

Cardiff does big ticket events extremely well but Martyn also pointed out that there is still more that can be improved on.

He called these issues ‘friction points’ and argued that all organisations face them.

By addressing these issues the work of the BID will be doing its bit to help enhance Cardiff city centre as a place in which to do business, to trade, to work and to attract increasing visitors, diners, shoppers and audiences.

What is crucial in the success of the BIDs is that every five years the businesses covered by the BID area vote on whether they want it to continue. If a BID isn’t delivering what businesses want to see, it is unlikely to get another five years.

This is a real motivator for the team running the BID and a driver to ensure that businesses can see the value of their investment.

The key message from the launch was that the BID is about additionality – it is not about undertaking activities or work normally covered by the local authority or other public services.

Doing more

And it is certainly not about saving them money – it is about doing more, and doing things that the businesses themselves decide they want done over and above what is expected of our public services.

And that’s why they voted to have the BID.

Another message was the need to hit the ground running and make an impact from the start, and the BID chairman, Simon Phillips, highlighted the projects that the BID has already secured and was already progressing with.

Listening to Mr Phillips and those involved with the Cardiff BID speak, and getting a better understanding of the BID process in general, I believe that many of the elements that shape the BIDs are closely aligned with business processes and how individual organisations should act.

The need to respond quickly to trends, to identify and address issues as they arise, to communicate
well and to work in partnership together, are all fundamental to business success and as these lessons are applied to the BID process we can be hopeful that it will be a tremendous success.

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