Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Regional or Citywide BID Associations: Don't underestimate the value of a local BID support network.

Scant attention is paid to the non-profit member associations that serve Improvement Districts, so I was excited to see a news article on the Long Beach Council of Business Associations that was formed six years ago in Long Beach, California.

There are an increasing number of cities around the county that have a critical mass of Business Improvement Districts. These organizations have a strong rationale for coming together on a regular basis to network, learn from one another, and advocate for policy issues that affect them all.

Coming together with other BIDs is important because much of the work of a commercial district practitioner is inherently local in nature. From regulatory and permitting challenges to state specific grants and funding sources, knowing the local experts and resources available to get the job done can be critical to success. Moreover, receiving referrals for local marketing professionals, website developers, service providers, etc. can make the job easier. 

In Long Beach, the gatherings were initially hosted by the City, but as time went on the organization became increasingly member-led. "Those who attended the meetings began to get to know one another personally and professionally and discovered that their neighborhoods and businesses often faced some of the same challenges. Working together, sharing their concerns with city staff, they are beginning to create change."

So, what has COBA done for its members? Besides the peer-to-peer learning and networking, the outcomes for COBA members were quite tangible. For example, COBA conducted city-wide surveys of business owners and compiled those results in 2012. The surveys helped to “give the city feedback from the ground level” and allowed members to push for a streamlined business licensing and permitting process at City Hall.

What do other BID Associations do?

The models for BID Associations differ, so we offer three profiles of associations. Advance warning. This overview is based almost entirely on what we could glean from their websites…so keep in mind that the story may be somewhat incomplete, but at the very least it offers a good start for understanding the variety of models and services that are typically provided. We'd love to hear additional info about these and other organizations in the comments section. 

New York BID Managers Association

Website: http://www.nycbidassociation.org/
# of BIDs in City: 69
Year Founded: 1995
# of Full Time Staff: None, this is an entirely volunteer led organization. The organization's budget is capped budget of $100k a year, and dues are pro-rated based on each BIDs budget.
Membership: Limited to BID Managers (effectively only the Executive Directors of each BID are members)

Mission: “The stated mission of the NY BID The mission of the Association is to COMMUNICATE, COORDINATE, and ADVOCATE. The Association communicates important information, ideas, and best practices among its members; coordinates interaction between BID directors and key contacts, elected officials, and City representatives; and advocates on behalf of its membership on important issues to support the work of and further the goals of BIDs citywide.”

Services offered: Much of the NY BID Managers Association is behind a members only wall, but we do know that their primary focus is on advocacy and that they bring members together on a regular basis to discuss key issues. These volunteer subcommittes are orgainzed around pressing issues such as street vendors. A few other services include:

  • Maintain an internal listserve
  • Host networking events for BID staff, host forums to identify best practices
  • Host an annual meeting

Business Improvement District Council, San Diego, California 

Website: http://bidcouncil.org/
# of BIDs in City: 17
Year Founded: 1989
# of Full Time Staff: 1
Mission: “The Business Improvement District Council (BID Council) is an association of San Diego’s Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) whose mission is to assist in the development and dissemination of information, resources, and expertise to its member BIDs, and to improve the physical, social, and economic environments of San Diego’s small businesses.”

Membership: Membership is open to both “property-based special districts” and individual operators with 12 or fewer employers and who hold a city-issued small business tax certificate.

Services offered:
  • Calendar of events for City BIDs
  • Legislative/Advocacy on behalf of system-wide initiatives or collaborated responses to system-wide issues
  • Resources. The organization provides a one-stop shop for information about relevant resources and programs. For example, the website provides links to the City of San Diego’s Storefront Improvement Program, for instance.
  • Networking/Relationship building – offers training sessions for members, most recently

Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Toronto, Canada

Website:  http://toronto-bia.com/
# of BIAs in City: 75 BIAs representing 35,000 business and property owners
Year Founded: 1980
# of Staff: One Executive Director, an Office Manager, a marketing consultant and a property tax consultant.
Membership: Limited to Business Improvement Areas

  • To promote strong, successful and effective BIAs in the City of Toronto.
  • To encourage joint initiatives and collaboration that are mutually beneficial to groups within the BIA on issues and projects, including studies and research in marketing.
  • To encourage and facilitate the exchange of information, experiences and ideas among BIAs through such means as our website, newsletters, seminars, workshops for the benefit of the BIA and their individual members.
  • To assist BIA's in pooling their resources to achieve the maximum benefit possible.
  • To provide advocacy, to influence policies affecting BIAs, and to obtain support funds and services for BIAs from all levels of government, institutions, agencies and other organizations.
  • To protect the interest of BIAs in government tourism policies and in the implementation of those policies.
Services offered:
  • Calendar of events for City BIDs
  • Monthly newsletter entitled “News & Views” 
  • Regular posts on current events and issues of interest on their website
  • Advocacy on behalf of BIA’s with the City for things such as a simplified annual budgeting process and exemptions from city set fee structures related to banners in designated BIA areas. Coverage by the City of Toronto’s Public Liability Insurance…to name a few wins. 
  • Discounts on Liability insurance as required for BIA Boards. 
  • Education/Information for merchants and Boards. A local college now offers a four course program that is delivered directly to merchants on issues as diverse as theft reduction to marketing. 
  • Promotions – the TABIA has embarked on a number of Citywide Campaigns that offer BIAs the opportunity to promote themselves in the local media as a savings. 
  • Networking Opportunities – plans and executes a bi-annual National BIA Conference to share ideas and learn from the experience of other BIAS. TABIA also sponsors informal opportunities to network and invites speakers on a regular basis to speak to their members.

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