We traveled to the United Kingdom for three weeks in June to study the British High Street, the counterpart to the American Main Street. There we visited with town leaders, learned new strategies for building thriving downtowns, and observed firsthand thriving town centers (the British counterpart to “downtown”) in England and Wales, including winners of and runners-up for the Great British High Street Awards. Thanks to the generous spirit and collegiality of High Street leaders and business owners, we learned more on this trip than we ever imagined possible. We have organized our new knowledge into four lessons.
We present Lesson Three here.
FALMOUTH'S BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT
Falmouth is a beautiful port town, located in Cornwall, the southern-most county of England. Its town center is known for its deep harbors, historic preservation, and an annual Sea Shanty Festival. It is also known for its remarkable ability to collaborate, an effort that led it to winning the 2016 Great British High Street Award for “Best Coastal Community.”
The Falmouth BID has generated great successes in its 10-year history, resulting in its 2016 capture of the Great British High Street Award for “Best Coastal Community.”
We discovered that the UK has more than 300 business communities operating BIDs and investing millions of dollars into cities and towns.
WHAT IS A "BID"?
The Falmouth Team definition of a Business Improvement District (or BID) mirrors that used in here in the U.S:
A BID is a not-for-profit, business-led entity supported by government legislation which gives businesses the power to raise funds locally to be spent locally on improving a defined commercial area.
A BID is created when the majority of business property tax payers within that area vote to invest collectively in local improvements. A BID delivers specified projects over and above the baseline service provided by other local agencies.
The Falmouth UK BID was approved by its local property owners for four-year terms, and that group recently voted to renew it for its third term. A board of volunteer directors support one BID manager to deliver the specific program of projects, services, and initiatives outlined in the proposal approved by voters.
In Falmouth’s case, those projects included:
- Destination marketing campaigns,
- Street decorations,
- Cruise ship marketing,
- Business training, and more.
BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICTS IN GEORGIA AND US
A Business Improvement District, or BID, is the common term used in the US, but these districts are sometimes called “self-supported municipal improvement district,” “Special Improvement District,” “Special Business District,” or “Economic Improvement District.” Georgia law allows two of these self-taxing districts, BIDs and CIDs (Community Improvement Districts), with slightly different legal requirements and uses, but similar purposes.
There are over 400 BIDs functioning in 42 states in the US.
In Georgia, Atlanta, Columbus, Rome, and Madison all have at least one BID or CID. The most recent addition is NewTown Macon who approved a BID in 2017.
The NewTown Macon BID is administered by a seven-person volunteer board. Five board members are elected by the property owners within the district to serve three-year terms, and must be property owners. One represents Macon-Bibb County and the final member represents NewTown Macon.
The elected BID board has discretion over how revenues are spent and on what projects. The NewTown Macon BID was specified to have six-year terms that required voter approval in order to be renewed for another six years.
TYPES OF PROJECTS OFTEN SPECIFIED BY SELF-TAXING MEMBERS OF BIDS:
- Public safety and security
- Marketing and promotion (i.e., websites, PR campaigns, festivals and events, street decorations)
- Capital improvements, infrastructure, and landscape
- Parking and transportation, and
- Business development training
BID projects have the potential for economic development that benefits the district and produces a positive economic impact for the city and county. Projects contained in a bid proposal should reflect the constituents’ needs and priorities based on surveys and stakeholder input.
GEORGIA MAIN STREET
NEWTOWN MACON, GA