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21 facts about Bedford for 2021

1  Government Loves Bedford – A Government report earlier this year is suggesting that towns up and down the country follow the example of Bedford by having a Business Improvement District (BID) for the town centre.

2  BedfordBID was formed in 2005 as one of only 12 towns to pilot the business-led project, since then over 300 have followed and a report out now says they are an example for all towns. The report lists a catalogue of ideas, many of which replicate what is already happening in Bedford

3  BedfordBID is now in its fourth term - one of the few to have worked well by putting business interests high on the agenda of public service providers. It is voted for by town centre organisations.

4  Confidence in the town is being promoted in 2020 with an Open for Business campaign to combat the commercial ill-effects of Coronavirus.

5  The biggest businesses support the smallest via the BID. The smallest outlets do not pay the levy but still benefit from the activities and also take part in promotions. For most independents the levy amounts to a few hundred pounds a year.

6  There are over 300 independent retailers in Bedford, 22% higher than the UK average, demonstrating Bedford’s bounty of unique and specialist businesses

7  The independent business-led BID board decides how the money is spent against the Business Plan. The council is the collection agency for the levy; the money is passed directly to the BID. The council does not determine how the money is spent.

8  Board members are volunteers including a cross section of levy-paying businesses who are paid no extra money to give up their time to support the activity of the BID. One of the representatives is from the local authority. The BID has a full-time Director of Operations, part-time office member and marketing person plus a small team of front line staff who are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the BID business community supporting the day-to-day operational needs of local businesses.

9  BedfordBID is an experienced group who know the town centre inside-out.  BedfordBID is an example copied by other BIDs who aspire to have hands-on support and expertise linking visitors to businesses.

10  Love Bedford NOW! is the latest advanced social media promotion by BedfordBID broadcasting positive News, Offers and What’s On added to the Love Bedford platforms for the benefit of businesses – large or small!

11  BedfordBID Business Against Crime (BeBAC) is now improving reporting and evidence for the prevention of persistent ASB working in collaboration with local agencies and stakeholders.

12  The award-winning BedfordBID Town Centre Retail RadioLink & Exclusion Scheme unites the BID, businesses and CCTV which means up to the minute information can be shared about incidents and activities. In addition, the BID has for over a decade paid for the Taxi Marshalls and encouraged professionalism in customer care and service among pubs and clubs through funding the BIIAB Level 1 Award in Responsible Alcohol Retailing.

13  Skills development and business mentoring programmes funded by BedfordBID in partnership with Customer Experience Specialists insight6 continues to benefit town centre businesses.

14  BID Business Breakfasts are a forum for businesses to speak directly to those who can influence trading environments including the local MP, the Mayor, and the Police Crime Commissioner.

15  BedfordBID supports and sponsors projects which benefit levy-paying businesses in the town centre. It is not a substitute fund where public sector cuts have been made. However IF a project is proven to boost footfall to levy-payers, then the Board may decide to make funds available.

16  The John Bunyan Boat has been a great example of a BID-supported project which has raised the profile of the town to potential visitors and has taken 000’s of trippers on river journeys.

17  Education and training is not the remit of the BID - but it does have close ties with major levy-payers Bedford College where 12,000 students and staff boost the thriving heart of Bedford. The college also provides training for staff vital to town centre businesses.

18  Love Bedford Vouchers put money straight back into local tills - including those of independents who are often not allowed to join national voucher schemes. Buy BedfordBID Love Bedford vouchers online.  The target of £1 Million worth of vouchers was reached in 2017. Over 290 businesses are now redeeming vouchers.

19 After dark, the night time economy is supported by the BedfordBID ensuring a safe environment for those who are enjoying a night out in local pubs and clubs, or at venues like the Bedford Corn Exchange.

20  Lovebedford.co.uk is THE biggest website promoting Bedford to visitors near and far. It is the biggest hitter in terms of visitors who are really interested in knowing what’s on and when in town. It gives independents a platform and online presence to promote themselves to a wider audience they may struggle to reach within the limits of their individual resources.

Instagram images and movies help to keep Bedford in the picture. BedfordBID employs local professionals to present the best image of the town to those browsing online.

@LoveBedford Twitter has more than 8,000 followers and the Love Bedford Facebook shares information from businesses about their events and activities.  Links to all Love Bedford social media is shared across all channels including print thanks to the central marketing fund.

21 21 new businesses started up in 20/21 in the BedfordBID zone. Despite the Covid trials facing town centres everywhere, the entrepreneurial spirit survives in Bedford with 21+ businesses opening since lockdowns began in March 2020. All can be found via the BedfordBID’s directory.

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