A BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT (BID) MODEL FOR ANTIGONISH?
MOVING FORWARD TO ACHIEVE COMMON GOALS
The futures of the Town and the business community are closely intertwined, with the success of one dependent on the success of the other. It is with this in mind that the Town and business leaders are beginning to work together to find options to better promote the Town, its key assets, and special events; encourage business attraction and business retention; and, create a vibrant, dynamic community that people want to visit, do business, and to live and raise a family. To realize these shared goals, the Town of Antigonish is working with business leaders to explore the option of re-establishing a Business Improvement District, or BID.
WHAT IS A BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT (BID)?
A business improvement district (BID) is a special improvement district where business people join together to promote and improve the economic vitality of a geographically-defined commercial area. Ideally, the BID and municipality will work closely together as partners to address collective concerns, monitor business regulations, and support business interests and development projects through outreach, advocacy, and promotion. In doing so, Business Improvement Districts’ to help the Town to identify business development priorities, resolve service delivery issues, make the area more attractive to investors, developers and clientele and otherwise assist the Town in achieving its economic development mandate.
A BID is not new concept to the Town of Antigonish. The advantage of re-establishing a BID in Antigonish is premised on the fact that the Town is a hub for the communities of the Eastern Strait Region, providing a range of retail, banking, automotive, restaurant, and hospitality services. A BID can potentially enhance this position (both locally and regionally) by giving the commercial sector a more unified and thus stronger voice. At present, BIDs present a path forward for the business community to take responsibility and ownership in determining their future success and the future success of their communities. Many communities have had long-standing BIDs, such as Truro, Wolfville, as well as CBRM and Halifax, while Bridgewater has more recently been active in working to set up a BID as part of their downtown revitalization planning.
HOW ARE BIDS FORMED?
BIDs may start with the momentum of Businesses and Property owners within a commercial area or initiated by the municipality in collaboration with local business leaders. The decision to set up a BID is a democratic process, where a poll is taken to see if the majority of business and property owners within a defined commercial area are in favor of a BID. If the majority of businesses agree, all property owners within the BID boundary will be deemed to be a BID member.
What services will the BID provide?
The specific services provided by the BID will be determined through discussions between the organization and the Town to determine a reasonable and practical division of responsibility between the two sides and enshrined in a Service Agreement. In general, BIDs carry out activities that can include:
- Branding, marketing and promotions;
- Signage and Wayfinding;
- Streetscape Improvements;
- Safety Improvements;
- Shopfront/Facade Improvements;
- Seasonal & Special Events; and,
- Stakeholder engagement, advocacy, and outreach.
These services provided by BIDs are designed to be specific to the needs of the area, and supplemental to those provided by the municipality. The idea is not to download responsibilities to the business community, only to come up with a fair division of labour to ensure our goals and desired outcomes can be met.
HOW ARE BIDS FUNDED?
Under Section 56 of the Municipal Government Act, the Town has the authority to levy an area rate applicable to commercial properties located within a geographically defined area known as the ‘Business Improvement District’. The boundaries of the district will be determined with input from the business community. The revenue collected through the area rate is then re-allocated back to a non-profit organization in the form of a grant. As such, the money paid through the area rate must be viewed as an investment in the BID, and not a tax, per se.
Fortunately, the Town is in a strong position to consider an area rate to fund the activities of a BID. As the table below demonstrates, the Town has a very competitive commercial tax rate that is nearly $0.76 lower than the next lowest comparable Town in Nova Scotia. With commercial tax rates at this level, the Town can leverage its BID levy when attempting to attract and retain businesses to argue our commercial rates can remain low and offer a better value for money proposition to businesses.
|Town||Commercial Tax Rate ($)|
|Town of Amherst||4.45|
|Town of Antigonish||2.57|
|Town of Bridgewater (in progress)||3.99|
|Town of Kentville||3.33|
|Town of New Glasgow||4.4|
|Town of Port Hawkesbury||4.39|
|Town of Truro (BID)||4.47|
|Town of Wolfville (BID)||3.55|
|Town of Yarmouth||4.39|
|Note: rates do not include additional area rates|
HOW ARE BIDS MANAGED?
In general, BIDs are managed by a non-profit organization, overseen by a Board of Directors. The BID and Town will work together to determine priorities to ensure goal alignment and to prevent duplication, and to set area rates to meet operational and programming requirements. The option also exists for collecting a BID levy to fund a new Town position responsible for economic development-related issues and events; however, the model can be more responsive and flexible to the needs of the business community if the BID is managed by a non-profit.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
From the perspective of the business community, there are many potential benefits. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Operational Autonomy: A BID model affords the business community a relative measure of autonomy to determine the best path forward for business in the Town of Antigonish. The levy provides a stable funding source to carry out projects deemed important to the overall success of commercial area and the community as a whole.
- Financial Leverage: the BID area rate levy can provide the organization with a stable source of funding that can be leveraged when applying for grants and other project-based funding from other levels of government or funding agencies.
- Dialogue & Advocacy: A formalized structure of a BID provides a collective voice to businesses within our community to be heard. This can help put forward a more unified vision to Council (and other stakeholders) to achieve desired initiatives.
- Value Creation: According to the Bridgewater Development Association: “BID areas have been known to increase the value of property and to attract businesses to vacant space because of the marketing and creation of an attractive business district.”
- Leadership: BIDs can play a strong leadership role in determining the future of the community and the success of its businesses.
If you would like more information or would like to share any comments or concerns regarding establishing a BID in Antigonish, please contact Steve Scannell, Special Projects Coordinator: