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UKREiiF: A ‘place’ for Business Improvement Districts

In the mid-2000s, the term ‘place’ started to creep into mine and my colleagues’ professional vocabularies, comments Andrew Cooper, chief executive of Leeds Business Improvement District.

I recall seeing jobs that started to use the word place such as ‘head of place’ and ‘place manager’.  Then the term itself became crystallised in the formation of The Institute of Place Management (IPM), recognising that the management of a place is not the responsibility of any one organisation.

Place before politics

In my opinion, a place is only possible when everyone gathers around a clear vision with ambition that is backed by a commitment of resources and personnel to turn its vision into a reality. Not lofty visions of grandeur that never see the light of day, but realistic deliverable and attainable visions.

In July 2021, there was a heated exchange on BBC Question Time, during which the mayor of Greater Manchester made the point that Westminster is about party first and devolution is about place first. While it may have been a political swipe, the point was valid. Those who serve in a ‘place-orientated office’ should put the place before their own ambitions, politics, and agenda. Prof Cathy Parker reminds us that “local authority leadership is not place leadership” and those places that display a united front in their shop windows of inward investment fare better and are taken seriously.

Through UKREiiF, places in the UK have gained confidence in being positive and noisy about their offerings, something that the UK culture does not always excel at. It has been fantastic to see places keeping announcements embargoed until UKREiiF to capitalise on the impact, press profile, and to excite the 12,000 delegates in attendance. Having a firework display with one firework is a poor show, but when everyone lets their fireworks off – what a display.  That is what is being created by UKREiiF – places coming together to showcase their visions and how they are achieving them.

Business Improvement Districts

At UKREiiF we will be marking the 20th anniversary of Business Improvement Districts in the United Kingdom. There are now over 340 Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) which are not-for-profit, non-political organisations established for the places they serve. BIDs represent businesses in a defined area and bring new investment into a town or city centre. Collectively BIDs in the UK contribute £152m a year. BIDs are a well-established model of ‘place’ management, enabling business communities to work together for collective benefit. They can be found across the world, starting first in Canada in the 1960s.

Established in 2015 as the 200th UK BID, Leeds continues to boast the largest multi-sector Business Improvement District outside of London. Every BID must have a five-year business plan, which gets endorsed through a ballot. This ensures that the BID delivers on its promises and allows levy-paying businesses an opportunity to influence the strategic direction every five years.

In 2024 we will be asking businesses to help influence the business plan for LeedsBID for 2025/30. Leeds is experiencing an exciting time of development and transformation. The retail and leisure sectors are flourishing and the professional sector and new office space in Leeds continues to grow at a pace. LeedsBID wants to ensure it keeps in step with the growth of the city. We are therefore proposing that for 2025/30 the BID boundary changes to encompass those businesses, particularly in the waterfront area of the city. The waterfront is now becoming a natural expansion to the city centre with new investment, infrastructure, and events like UKREiiF already underway in this area.

Our aim and ambition from 2025/30 is to continue to bring projects, events and activities to Leeds city centre that were previously non-existent before LeedsBID existed. We are committed to ongoing investment into transformational projects improving Leeds for the better across every sector of business. BIDs are the epitome of place-led leadership, bringing together the private and public sectors with a shared vision and business plan for action.

Whether you are showcasing your place at UKREiiF 2024 or attending as a delegate, you are welcome to join us at the iconic Corn Exchange Leeds on Monday 20 May 2024 at 7.30pm for the official welcome event at the Welcome to Leeds hub. Don’t forget to drop by Stand D50 during UKREiiF to discover more about the impact of Business Improvement Districts on places.

  • Andrew Cooper is senior fellow at the Institute of Place Management and chief executive at Leeds Business Improvement District

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