A permanent Business Improvement District (BID) in Newry would help promote the city as a destination for ‘visitors, tourists, shoppers and investors’.
That’s according to Sarah Henry, BID Project Manager, who is encouraging all city centre businesses within the pilot scheme’s boundaries to vote in favour of it becoming a fixture for the next five years in the Newry BID ballot that runs until November 5.
Speaking to the Reporter, Ms Henry said that BID provided Newry – chosen as one of seven designated pilot areas in Northern Ireland – with an investment opportunity for its city centre and for BID businesses and stakeholders.
She explained that having gone through a feasibility and study stage, they were now at the very last stage in the project and the pilot scheme – putting the question of whether or not to establish a BID in Newry for the next five years to all eligible businesses.
“We have conducted consultations and surveys with our stakeholders and businesses over the last 12 months, and we had a great response from businesses – we have a task group made up of 20 businesses that helped compile a study and analyse it into our final publication, which is the Newry BID Business Plan, which all stakeholders should have received a copy of by this stage,” she said.
“Working with our businesses, various stakeholders, and public bodies and BID consultants, we have compiled a five-year plan, and within that plan we have outlined a number of projects that businesses have identified as areas for improvement within the Newry BID boundary, which is in fact just the city centre. It is the city centre boundary and we include 60-plus streets. The BID has to be responsive to any members within the BID area.”
BID will be a democratically elected, not for profit company, according to Ms Henry, and with balloting finishing on November 5, there is plenty of time for businesses to ‘find out all there is to know about the BID, what the BID will offer businesses in Newry and they will then decide as to whether they want a BID or not in Newry’.
“The lifespan of a BID is for five years,” she said. “At the end of those five years the businesses will get another chance to vote for re-election of the BID company and at that time they will be able to introduce any changes, or they could increase or decrease the boundary,” she said. “They could change the whole format of it, but I think it is to give the BID a chance.”
When asked how she would envisage the BID benefiting businesses within Newry, Ms Henry said that they hoped to ‘show return for the individual businesses to reduce costs’, and ‘to increase footfall, make sure that profit goes up for our businesses, and to let people know that we are open for business here in Newry, so to attract further business into the city centre’.
“The other element of it is as well as showing tangible benefits, we hope that the BID company would be used as a way to leverage additional funding into the city centre, and the BID has to prove to be a very proactive organisation that grasps financial opportunities as they arrive, and make sure that Newry has its say, and has a foot in the door for funding,” she said.
Engaging and working with tourist bodies would also be a key tenet of the BID over its initial five-year tenure, she added.
“As the only city in the new super-Council area we think we have got a very prominent position and we should be capitalising on opportunities for growth that exists around us and not just have it as the case where some people feel we may have been bypassed, so it is really trying to grasp opportunities and raise the profile of the city as a place open for business and open for visitors, tourists, and people to spend time here,” Sarah said.
“People would say you are barking up the wrong tree if you see Newry as a tourism destination, but I don’t think that is what we are trying to say. I think that what we are trying to say is that we are amidst areas of outstanding beauty – natural tourist attractions – and we want to make sure that people know about us and what we have to offer as well, and put ourselves on the map again as a destination for visitors, tourists, shoppers, investors, so we need to tie it all in together and come up with a way to market the city appropriately so that we are really putting ourselves on the map.
“I would definitely encourage a yes vote. I think it is just a really, really good opportunity – not just from the financial element – but really to galvanise the business community together and give some strong representation for all members and all stakeholders within Newry.” The Newry BID Business Plan can be downloaded or requested from the Newry BID office. For further information, contact 02830250303 or email@example.com.
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