Go Grantham is consulting with businesses as it builds up support for a business improvement district (BID).
And this vital stage comes as one of the town’s largest employers gives its backing – despite the fact it is located outside of the BID boundary.
A BID is a business-led and business-funded scheme which aims to improve a defined area – in Grantham’s case this area stretches from Manthorpe to the north, Alma Park to the east, Spittlegate Level to the south and the A1 to the west.
All 670 businesses within the boundary will be asked in November to vote on whether they want to see a BID created, funded by a small levy based on each business’s rateable value.
Despite not being allowed a say, Downtown, an Oldrids Group store at Gonerby Moor, has praised the project as it believes it would be good for Grantham, and has pledged to give it financial backing.
Oldrids director Steve Goulder said: “We originally are not part of the proposed area of the BID, but we have been involved with other BIDs in Lincolnshire and we understand the benefits they can bring to a town like Grantham.
“This initiative is not just about working in isolation to promote small parts of the Grantham area, instead it’s about the whole business community coming together to create a vision for what we all want Grantham to be in the future. Finding a mechanism, such as a BID, to support this means that all businesses can get involved and have a say about the future plans for Grantham.
“We are, therefore, supporting Go Grantham in their BID ambition, and want to contribute towards the continued development of the local area.”
Stuart Pigram, chairman of Go Grantham, said: “The support from Downtown is an extremely important step forward for the Go Grantham project.
“Having volunteer members shows the value that this project will have for Grantham and starts to increase the investment we can provide.”
One woman working hard to spread the message is Go Grantham operations manager Amber Kitching, 25. She is tasked with engaging with all 670 businesses on the patch, from small operations to national chains, to make sure they are fully informed and understand how the £2 million the BID would bring in over five years could transform the town.
She said: “We have a general idea of things we want to look at but they will be determined by businesses. None of the decisions the BID board will make will come from the board, they will come from conversations and feedback we’ve had from businesses and local authorities.”
Go Grantham has come up with four key outcomes to focus on – brand and marketing, business investment and support, retention/attraction of high quality staff and visitor economy.
Brand and marketing could include a new website on the town, said Amber. “Grantham doesn’t put itself across very well,” she said. “For example, we don’t have a town centre website. Google ‘Grantham’ and there’s nothing really there. We need something that talks about the town and what you can do there. That’s something the BID could look at.”
Meanwhile, creating attractive gateways to the town by investing in roundabouts might fall into the visitor economy category, as could the creation of town centre apps, maps and trails.
Business investment and support could include reduced car parking schemes for workers and free town centre WiFi, while the retention/attraction of high quality staff could see a training facility created and a boost to apprenticeships.
Following the consultation, a prospectus will be put together and sent out in September. A 30-day postal vote will follow.
Bearing in mind the collective voice a BID would create is important, said Amber. She added: “For a business on its own, fighting your corner can be really hard. But if you’ve got 670 businesses together to push something forward, it makes it very hard for people to ignore you and to disagree with you.”
She is also stressing the importance of votes being cast. “Turnout is very important. If you don’t want the BID to happen, vote ‘no’, because we don’t want to be fighting a battle. That’s the last thing we want, a BID to come in that people don’t want. We don’t want to be fighting against businesses, we want to be working with them.”