Ballymena BID launches £1m five year plan to boost town business
Ballymena Business Improvement District (BID) has unveiled a five-year plan, in excess of £1m, which will double as part of a post-COVID, economic recovery strategy for Ballymena town centre. The local BID Board, run by a collective of owners and representatives of local businesses, is encouraging all local traders and stakeholders to come together in support of their recently published BID Business Plan for 2021 -2026 which will go to ballot on 16th February 2021.
Business Improvement Districts
Stephen Reynolds, Chair of Ballymena BID, and proprietor of the award-winning Front-Page Bar explained, “The Ballymena BID was the very first BID district established in Northern Ireland in 2015. There are now over 300 Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) throughout the UK. BID is a tried and tested business model. The BID has been deemed a huge success by levy payers, stakeholders and board members alike. Ballymena BID was established to encourage growth, development and continued investment into Ballymena town centre. During its first five-year term the BID has been instrumental in helping to build and maintain a clean, safe, accessible and welcoming experience for local shoppers and visitors alike.”
Road map to recovery
“Ballymena BID intends to build on the success of our first term, and to assist in the provision of a road-map to recovery on the heels of the current Covid pandemic. The highlights of the past five years include a host of coordinated marketing and family-friendly, town centre events. We collaborated with our colleagues at MEABC to maximise the financial return from the 74th All Ireland Pipe Band Championships when 10,000 visitors, made up of pipers, drummers, highland dancers, drum majors and their families and supporters descended on Ballymena town centre for an all-day Saturday event in the summer of 2019.”
Car parking initiatives
“BID has assisted with car parking initiatives, improved signage and maps, improved public transport, improved visitor experience, information awareness, support for new and existing businesses, business training and networking opportunities, improved safety and security, improvements in the local environment….to name but a few. We’ve recently created a new and improved website, have continued to grow our social media presence and increased consumer recognition.”
BID Manager Emma McCrea added: “The past five years have been a huge success story and one which myself and fellow board members are very proud of. The next few weeks will see the commencement of our BID re-ballot process which will be crucial to securing our integral place in the economic recovery of Ballymena.
Popular retail destination
“Ballymena has always had a reputation as being a popular retail and hospitality destination, and one which we plan to make even better. Over the past few years (pre-Covid) we have increased footfall, with the statistics showing a 6.9 per cent increase, bucking the national trend.
“We have improved the visitor experience in Ballymena with the introduction of a town centre Warden, “meeters and greeters”, an additional Police presence, alongside the development of a five-year crime reduction strategy.
“We have organized and hosted numerous events and initiatives which have been rolled out through sustained, extensive marketing and PR campaigns which have firmly established Ballymena’s place on the Northern Ireland map.
Funding for five year plan
During Ballymena BID’s first term we have generated an additional £150,000 additional income for the local economy through funding from various local and UK Government grants. The BID Board would remain confident in securing similar funding during the next five-year term.
Emma concluded: “We have already secured over £1m of funding to help roll out the five-year plan and over the past six months we have received a £36k boost from the Department of Communities.”
Following extensive consultation with local businesses last year, Ballymena BID has identified three key areas in which to focus its actions to deliver maximum benefit for its investment through to 2026.
Robust marketing campaign
These will include a robust and sustained advertising and marketing campaign….including the ongoing development of the social media and digital offering and promotional events such as Ballymena’s already well-established, annual Discount Day. Creating a safe, clean and welcoming environment, including enhanced litter management and better street lighting, will also be addressed. Business support, aimed at attracting and encouraging new businesses, as well as supporting existing businesses, will also remain a priority.
BID Chairperson Stephen Reynolds continued: “Due to the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our local economy, there has never been more need for a coordinated recovery plan. The BID process brings all of the businesses within Ballymena town centre together to share development ideas, create a well-informed business plan and implement that same business strategy….supported by partnership with MEABC.
“We have recently launched our Ballymena BID Business Plan document for 2021-2026 which includes targeted goals to promote Ballymena as the number one retail and hospitality destination of choice in Northern Ireland. However, we need everyone’s support. We need every local business owner to work together in mutual support to help Ballymena rebuild and recover after such challenging economic times. I’ve no doubt that there will be challenges ahead. The success of the reballot in respect of Ballymena BID 2 is more important now than ever. I genuinely can’t see a better way forward than the current BID strategy.”
“For a successful Yes vote, over 50 per cent of eligible businesses must be in favour of the Ballymena BID Renewal Business Plan. That’s why we are calling on our local business community to support this important initiative when the postal voting process opens on 16th February 2021. The closing date for votes is 30th March 2021.”