Exciting developments are on the horizon for retail, business and people in town as its fast-growing Grantham Business Club embarks on a five-year plan full of ambitious goals.
And at the top is forming a Business Improvement District (BID) for Grantham which, if successful, would see significant improvements to the town centre and town as a whole.
These could be introducing cycle lanes and facilities, replacing street lighting, bringing in night-time security or investing in car parking. The government-backed scheme is flexible to allow money to be spent on what would best enhance the area.
However, it is not a simple process – and three-quarters of business rate-payers must be in agreement for the BID to be launched, as it is business-funded as well as business-run.
But with other towns nearby and across the country reaping the benefits of the BID scheme, GBC chairman Stuart Pigram believes it is time Grantham takes its chance.
He added: “We have noticed a number of towns in the district that have benefited from BID money and perhaps Grantham is missing out.”
A BID runs for a period of five years and can only be formed following consultation and a ballot, either run or outsourced by South Kesteven District Council. Businesses vote yes if they are happy to pay a levy, a single digit percentage of their rates, after having heard how their money would be spent. If 75 per cent give the thumbs-up, then the BID is formed.
One example of a BID town is Melton Mowbray, which invested in car parking, business improvement schemes and heritage projects.
To see the bid through, GBC will make some fundamental changes to the way it operates as it embarks on the five-year plan and works to be more inclusive.
The first step is to establish eight spokes leading from the core of GBC as a hub.
These spokes will be led by ‘industry champions’ who will have a prominent place within their industries – professional services, hospitality, manufacturing, retail, agriculture and food, warehouse and distribution, and construction. The final branch will be events, led by Stuart’s right-hand woman, Amber Kitching, as GBC events co-ordinator.
Stuart said: “It’s a hugely exciting time for Grantham. With the business club expanding it should be a hugely exciting time for every business in Grantham because every business and business type will have a voice.
“It’s about embracing all business sectors in Grantham, not just retail.”
Amber added: “Things are really looking up for Grantham at the moment. We didn’t fall down during the recession, we stayed going.
“In the last year, we opened 10 new independent retailers.
“I think this year we can say ‘Hey! Look at us, we are Grantham and this is what we can do’.”
Further evidence that Grantham is doing well is the latest occupancy rate for Grantham, which comes in at 88.2 per cent and is higher than the national average.
Encouraging young people and their wide and varied interests will be a key task as the business club goes forward. “Kids get a fantastic education in this town,” said Stuart, “and they need to know they can do all they want to do here.”
Although GBC is leading the BID project, SKDC would need to give it support.
Economic development manager David Mather told the Journal the local authority would be happy to work with GBC to “explore the possibilities and consider all options that are for the good of Grantham”.
But he warned: “Business Improvements Districts need to have the full consensus of everyone in the town so they are not something to be entered into without wide consultation and universal agreement.”
** Club’s upcoming projects and events
* Tuesday, January 20, from 6pm - Monthly GBC meeting at the Urban Hotel, Grantham.
* March 21 - a James Bond-themed event in aid of the Grantham Disabled Children’s Society (GDCS), at the Urban Hotel. The hotel’s main function room will be transformed into a casino, with doors leading outside to a laser shooting gallery. Tickets are £45 each or a table of 10 for £400, available from the either GBC or GDCS. Donations of auction or raffle prizes would be welcome.
* April 4 - Easter fun in the Market Place. On the back of the GBC’s successful Halloween Spooktacular family fun day in October last year, an Easter event is on the horizon. Another market-centred event, and one for the community, families will be invited to hunt for Easter eggs, pet farm animals and take a close-up look at owls. An aim of the event is to boost footfall in the town centre and bring a boost to market traders. GBC hopes to attract additional stallholders to the market, which could lead to them being regulars on the Saturday market.
* April 17 - the Grantham Journal Business Awards, working in partnership with GBC and organiser of the Belton International Horse Trials Bede Events. Stuart hopes the event’s prestige will grow and become the place for businesspeople to be and be seen.
* A Dragons’ Den-inspired project aimed at young people educated in Grantham’s schools. GBC’s ‘youth champion’ Lauren Farrow, a young entrepreneur, will lead talks to college students and sixth formers, about getting into business at a young age. The tour will culminate in an event similar to TV’s Dragons’ Den, where a panel will consider their ideas.
* September - A business expo, hoping to attract businessmen and women from far and wide, and from all industries, to see the potential of Grantham. The event will feature a wide variety of stands and prominent speakers.
* October - A repeat of the successful Halloween Spooktacular event last year, which brought hundreds of people to the Market Place, where they carved pumpkins, enjoyed live music and entertainment and more. Amber said: “It was a great day and we’re going to develop it and make it bigger.”