Graphic: How BID is in spotlight for helping our city to prosper

Stefan Gurney and Carl Hedger from the Norwich BID team discuss the new prospectus with the rest of

Stefan Gurney and Carl Hedger from the Norwich BID team discuss the new prospectus with the rest of the staff.Picture by SIMON FINLAY. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Click here to view the graphicAs a business, knowing where to find help can often be harder than it looks.

In the past many would have criticised the lack of private and public support for ambitious companies looking to grow.

But now it can feel like the opposite. The number of bodies tasked with boosting the fortunes of the region is vast – and it can leave some firms confused as to where to turn to next.

However, there is one organisation standing out for the way it is helping the local economy.

The Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) is being approached by its sister organisations from across the country who are eager to emulate its innovative ideas.

Part of this new found recognition has come from two new projects that have shown how BIDs can play a strong hand in driving growth and saving money.

The first is a new economic document – the Norwich Business Prospectus – which has been created in a bid to sell the city as an attractive option for inward investment.

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The second is a new waste management scheme designed to take the pressure of landfill, improve the recycling rates, while saving traders money.

Stefan Gurney, executive director, said these two schemes alone have helped raise its profile both regionally and nationally – as well as helping to put to bed some misconceptions about what BIDs can really achieve.

Speaking about the prospectus, he said: 'There are people across Norwich who are monitoring different parts of the city's economy, but we do not have one overall picture of how it is performing.

'What the Norwich Business Prospectus does is bring together all the pertinent information into one area for businesses looking to get inward investment, or for a business that is looking to move into the city.'

'You can tell how the businesses are performing and make a good business case if, say, you are talking to landlords or property owners.

'It is a huge asset because it shows everything from the levels of employment to the quality of life in Norwich.

'That is the value of it,' he added. 'It has the potential to drive new business in, or retain existing business.'

'Nationally, it was held up as an exemplar of best practise by the Association for Town and City Management (ATCM) because it showed what BIDs can really achieve.

'BIDs are often thought of as an organisation that helps with the street cleaning or putting on the city's In Bloom events.

'But really they should be looking to the future and investigating the planning agenda for the city.'

Mr Gurney travelled to America to begin investigating how to put the prospectus together.

The first BIDs were founded in the USA back in the 1980s in order to regenerate deprived pockets of its major cities that were struggling to reinvent themselves.

But while the fact-finding mission was fruitful, Mr Gurney found that he could not simply impose an American model onto the British high street.

While America BIDs are funded by small groups which own the majority of the property, in the UK it is a different story.

In Norwich alone there are hundreds of different people and companies which own buildings in the city, making it almost impossible to bring them to the table and discuss a long-term strategic view - let alone gather valuable economic data.

Instead, Mr Gurney had to approach the councils, property agents, universities and the shop owners that fund the bid together to source the information he needed.

He achieved this by hiring economic graduates from the University of East Anglia and tasked them with collecting and distilling the information down until one final document was produced.

'It was always clear that the quality of life in Norwich was high,' Mr Gurney said. 'But now the positive levels of pay, the low crime figures and anti-social behaviour concerns have all been underpinned by figures.'

'We recently had the Lincoln BID come down to see us to find out why we were shortlisted for BID of the year,' he added. 'They were amazed at the offer Norwich had when it came to high-street shops we had which would normally only be found in London and not a regional city.'

Elsewhere, Norwich BID has been focusing its attention on a new environmental scheme to improve the city's recycling rates and help the ease the strain on the region's landfill sites.

But the BID is not just trying to attract businesses with its green agenda, it is also trying to attract business with the cost.

By increasing level of recycled goods, and using the size of membership to negotiate price, the BID believes it can offer a cheaper rate that some businesses are currently paying.

The inspiration for the schemes came after the BID launched a survey to identify whether their would be enough appetite from its members to launch it.

It found that many businesses felt frustrated by lack of recycling options and were keen to minimise their affect on the environment.

But it was the Castle Mall's decision to support the service that gave the scheme the cash-injection, and the confidence, it needed to make it viable – although the BID has still not managed to convince the intu Chapelfield shopping centre to follow suit.

Meanwhile, the organisation is hopeful that more businesses will come on board once their contract runs out with their current waste removal provider.

Carl Hedger, waste and recycling project manager for Norwich BID, said he is already pleased by the response he has had to the project – and he is convinced that its popularity could be boosted even further if landfill taxes continue to rise.

'Landfill costs are going up and that is why there is a huge pressure on the business community,' Mr Hedger said.

'We want to save money while helping the environment, while giving the companies access to different recycling streams.'

Do you have a business story for the Eastern Daily Press? Contact business editor Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email