It’s been six years since I first came to Mansfield to be the Business Improvement District (BID) manager.
So many things have changed since then, not just with the town centre itself, but with a whole host of things that affect businesses that operate within it. Out of town shopping areas, and the internet, for example.
BIDs are often the subject of debate, with some believing they are the way forward, and some thinking they could be a burden.
I personally believe that BIDs can be the catalyst for improvement. They are not the council, but work with local authorities, and they are not profit-making businesses but work to help businesses profit from town centre initiatives.
For Mansfield, the BID and its partners have recorded a number of successes.
Mansfield town centre became the first town of its size to offer free wifi to visitors and to businesses. This put us on the map and enabled us to become a pilot for an innovative voucher technology.
We have achieved the highly-coveted Purple Flag accreditation, which we have just retained.
We moved forward with the Business Crime Partnership, which has seen a number of partners coming together to reduce crime and to act on information in a collaborative manner.
We have had many events in the town centre, all of which have helped to drive footfall. The Armed Forces Day, the annual garden and craft festivals, and the inaugural party on the market are all great examples of how to drive footfall.
Working with partners, we have won Britain in Bloom categories, and the BID is held up as an example of what a good BID looks like.
Our cleansing teams have helped businesses to ensure the town centre is looking great, and our teams have helped businesses to refurb premises. We’ve introduced initiatives where levy payers can reduce costs. For example, electrical safety tests and utility reviews, cardboard collection and advertising.
The Healthy High Street scheme, where the BID took the lead, has seen major names working together to improve the town centre experience.
And of course, the BID has been able to attract additional funding. From Heritage Lottery schemes (Leeming Street) to funding for reviews into how vacant premises can be brought back into use, we have seen an additional one million pounds come in to the town centre.
Being at the head of a BID takes a lot of hard work and a strong character. It’s clear that BIDs have their opponents, some of whom are very vocal. It’s clear the BIDs have to be able to work in partnership with other organisations, both in the public and private sectors.
At the end of the day though, the BID has to be able to deliver. Mansfield BID was successfully voted back in. I am very proud that the small BID team, its board, and its partners, are all working for the town centre businesses.
Mansfield town centre has bags of potential and I look forward to seeing how it is taken forward.