A MANAGER has been appointed to promote Halesowen’s campaign to become a Business Improvement District (BID) as a way of helping the town centre survive.
Barry Wheeler is gearing up to begin pounding the streets in the new year to persuade retailers and other businesses of the benefits of voting to become a BID.
It would mean they would have to pay an extra one to two percent business levy on their rates.
But Mr Wheeler estimates an extra 1.5 per cent would raise between £120,000 and £130,000 a year which would be used to enhance and promote the town.
His part-time appointment – after months of voluntary pre-planning on behalf of Halesowen Chamber of Trade – follows the recent backing by Dudley Council, which awarded a £15,000 grant via the town’s two community forums.
A glossy brochure had already been produced highlighting the advantages of becoming a BID and Mr Wheeler will run a marketing campaign to spread the word ahead of voting, which will also be funded through the grant.
Mr Wheeler, who has worked closely with chamber of trade chairman Wayne Edwards and chamber member, Cornbow Shopping Centre manager Eve O’Connor, said he was “optimistic” businesses would vote in favour.
He said: “Some are already aware of the benefits because they have branches in BID towns or know fellow traders in those areas.
“If town centre are going to survive we have to find a way of fighting back in the face of the massive growth in online trading.”
BID cash would not replace council spending, but provide extras to make the town more attractive with projects influenced by the businesses themselves.
These could include CCTV, security patrols, more events, encouraging businesses to the town and support for new enterprises.
The BID, run as a not-for-profit company, would also take advantage of the town’s new website www.halesowentowncentre.co.uk, Facebook page and twitter account.
Areas which have become BIDs include Solihull, Wolverhampton and two in Birmingham. Eight-five per cent of businesses recently voted for one in West Bromwich.