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WNC Business

Leaders share information on BIDs

May 06, 2024 07:45AM ● By Randee Brown

Business Improvement Districts, or BIDs, are groups of stakeholders, businesses, property owners, and in some cases, residents within a defined geographic area that come together and decide to invest in enhanced services. Generally, those services are locally controlled to some extent, and BIDs create a community investing in the enhanced needs of the place in which they live, work, or do business.

BIDs are run by private property or business owners who form a board or nonprofit organization. Stakeholders are the decision makers regarding what services are offered and how funds are administered. The first BID in the country was formed in New Orleans, LA in 1974, and quickly became a popular model. Currently, there are 50 BIDs in North Carolina alone, and leaders within the City of Asheville are considering implementing the model and are working on a BID proposal.

In January, the Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel discussion by Dana Frankel, Casey Gilbert, and Hayden Plemmons to help inform the community about the potential initiative. Each of these women have experience working in a Business Improvement District in other cities, and shared details about their organizations and efforts.

Considered by some to be an investment in their business community, BIDs tend to fare well in economic downturns. The board of directors in control of funds helps businesses decide how and where to spend the money, giving business owners more control on chosen services. Having a direct line to decision makers can help owners accomplish some goals faster than going through a municipality.

The overarching goal of BIDs is to provide a clean and safe environment in which to do business. While specific services vary from city to city, many BIDs perform services like hosting community events, collecting trash, capital improvements, and beautification projects. Resources for small business support and economic development programs are often included, and advocating on behalf of businesses is also a large part of many BIDs.

BIDs may also market the amenities and opportunities within districts to new businesses or businesses outside of the district. This can help communities fill vacancies and drive more traffic to the area.

A BID’s mission can pivot and shift according to the needs of the community. Depending on the progress of its focused projects, some needs can eventually be determined by stakeholders as no longer necessary, and energy and capital can then be shifted to more relevant projects.

Funding for BIDs comes from an additional tax percentage paid by business owners, property owners, and residents within the defined area. In addition, event sponsorships, corporate sponsorships, or grants can provide revenue. Different BIDs have different models for determining tax rates for these services, and rates can vary depending on the level of services stakeholders desire.

While not funded or organized directly by a municipality, BIDs do have some sort of  relationship with city leaders. Some include representatives or partnerships, and often city leaders or city council members play a role in supporting BID creation. Some BID activities and initiatives are performed in partnership with the municipality, and BIDs can help municipalities determine their priorities as well.

BID boundaries can be determined in the creation process. Typically, a boundary encompasses a central business district, but the lines can be negotiated depending on where the majority of economic activity occurs as well as where the community feels it needs a higher level of service.

With an average rate of 75% for renewal votes, business owners seem to enjoy BID services. As a conduit for business owners to the city, most BIDs see high levels of engagement from owners and a high level of response from their leadership, and the BID is often seen as a value-add for businesses. Those surveyed have shared positive feedback, and those involved say a BID offers benefits for business success.