Forming a new Business Improvement District (BID) can sometimes be a long slogging uphill battle where District advocates devote countless unpaid hours in conversations with businesses and property owners to gain their input and approval. Building support for an Improvement District often means educating stakeholders on the benefits of the District and ensuring that all District advocates have a clear and concise set of talking points to use during outreach and when speaking to the press. Think of this like a political campaign – develop a set of talking points that everyone uses and stick to the script!
Below are a set of suggestions for how to go about introducing and educating your local stakeholders on the benefits of an Improvement District.
1. START BY DEFINING THE BID AND PROVIDING A FAMILIAR EXAMPLE OF SIMILAR ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURES
Not everyone knows what an Improvement District is, so put it in context. Here are a few examples.
Define a BID. A BID is an organization of property owners within a prescribed area who assess themselves to raise money for services and improvements that enhance business profitability and property values.
Compare a BID to something they know. There are two options here. For residents, you can suggest that BID’s are similar to a Home Owners Association, whose fees are used to maintain the appearance of common area assets in order to maintain property values. For other audiences, you might say that BID’s are similar to Shopping Mall Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges. CAM charges are used to maintain and enhance the shopping environment for the benefit of businesses in the center and to ensure the value of the asset over time for the owner.
2. MAKE SURE THEY KNOW THAT THE ASSESSMENT IS AN INVESTMENT IN SERVICES AND IMPROVEMENTS THAT EVERYONE AGREES ARE NECESSARY
Communicate the need to maintain and enhance the district. In some districts where imminent decline is a concern, you can share your belief that a failure to invest now in improvements to the district puts property owners and businesses at even greater risk for disinvestment and falling property values.
Communicate that the BID is a mechanism by which more funds can be leveraged. Professional staff in place mean that someone is able to apply for additional grants and advocate for additional funds, both public and private.
3. SHARE BID FACTS….here are a few….
- There are over 1,500 BIDs throughout the United States and counting.
- The problem with voluntary groups is that there is often a ‘free rider’ problem. A mandatory assessment ensures that everyone is required to contribute, keeping contributions modest and fair.
4. ….AND DON’T FORGET TO MENTION A LOCAL SUCCESS STORIES
This story will differ by community, but find a local example of a similar district that will resonate with your audience. Arrange for a site visit and tour if possible.
5. BE CLEAR ABOUT THE COSTS.
In many cases, the assessment per property owner is modest. Breakdown the cost by month or day, and compare it to the return on investment should their property value increase incrementally.
6. MAKE SURE YOUR BID SERVICES ARE CUSTOMIZED TO YOUR DISTRICT NEEDS
The most effective BID’s have developed a set of services and improvements that result from a consensus achieved through significant outreach, including focus groups, interviews, and surveys that allow for input from business owners, government officials and property owners. If you have done your homework, selling the BID services package will be more about telling people what they already want to hear.