How to make a Business Improvement District work for you.
B.I.D. Business Improvement District

By Debbie Stock

Business improvement districts (BID)s are all the rage. They are formed through a business process in which a geographic region of economic interest is determined, defined and then refined. Businesses without a lot of money or resources may vote either for or against the formation of a BID and they have the opportunity to re-affirm the BID entity on a regular basis (several year increments). When you set up shop you may want to investigate whether you are within a BID area and if so, how much will you have to pay each year?

BIDs are generally launched with consensus, but we’ve seen many form as the result of several restaurants or shop owners seeking them for various reasons. Primarily businesses are in business to make money and that is ultimately the key motivator for forming business improvement districts. Reasons to form a BID can include but aren’t limited to:

Unwanted regulations from a city that will impact businesses in a specific area–The formation of a BID can create a voting block and offer greater control over a city’s attempt to over-regulate businesses or regulate them in a manner that isn’t beneficial to business owners.

The desire to improve business–Business regions may be plagued with issues such as drunken behavior, too many of a certain type of shop or not enough draw with a broad mix of offerings for the public. BIDs often tackle problems and spend allocated resources to repair broken fixtures, add lighting, monitors, restrooms, provide clean sidewalks, promote special events, and create a desirable environment for target audiences.

The reasons BIDs are formed are numerous, but as a business, you can either get the most bang for your buck if you are within a BID district, or if you don’t think it’s helping you, you can work to dissolve a BID.

Becoming involved:

Get on the board, attend meetings, vote
Create marketing ideas and pursue them through the BID
Follow through–request marketing studies and data to monitor success and / or failures of implemented programs funded by the BID
Pay attention to details–if the BID has too much revenue and is spending money on programs that seem wasteful, work toward a more appropriate BID fee for businesses to pay annually. Similarly if more money is needed, consider raising BID annual fees to members.
If you believe the BID is wasting money, is non-productive and not helping, work with your surrounding businesses to disband it. BIDs come and BIDs go.
Be mindful of how much a BID has invested in infrastructure and operations. If you are thinking of disbanding a BID, remember that many BIDs pay for office space and equipment that will have to be disposed of. Most BIDs are quite frugal in their staffing, rental space and equipment. Not all are, and there have been instances of abuse with little oversight.
Follow the law–if your BID isn’t properly fulfilling audits, filing meeting notices, agendas and minutes, there may be trouble ahead. These items are key in providing documentation should there be any questions.