Dear BID Members
I write this blogpost at a time of great uncertainty for all of us within the Business Community. It is hard to believe that it is over 7 weeks since the beginning of the effective lockdown of our economy and the necessary restrictions placed on society and the ability of our members to trade sustainably. The restrictions have forced many businesses to temporarily close their premises, furlough employees, find new ways to trade safely and will likely result in some businesses not reopening. It is clear that the impact of this crisis will be felt well into the future, potentially changing how Strabane Town operates economically.
Of course safeguarding the general public, our employees, customer’s, family members and loved ones is and has been the number one priority for every BID Member during this initial phase of the COVID-19 Crisis.
Strabane BID Members have been at the forefront of highlighting the key message: Stay at Home; Save Lives; Protect the NHS. Our BID Members have been extremely active in supporting the wider community efforts providing support in relation to PPE, supporting our key workers, care homes and taking care of the most vulnerable. Strabane Businesses have stepped up to the plate like no others at this time of crisis and should be commended for their generosity of spirit and resilience over the last number of months.
The Strabane BID Company and Directors have been active on a number of fronts:
- Delivering a tailored COVID-19 Marketing and Communications Strategy.
- Lobbying Government on behalf of the Strabane BID Members.
- Providing Mentoring and Support for Strabane BID Members.
The Strabane BID Social Media Channels and Website have been extremely active over the period of the crisis. Our Facebook and Instagram platforms have focussed messaging on two core audiences:
- Strabane BID Members – The Strabane BID Company developed a COVID-19 SME Support Kit specifically to help our members access the various grants, loans, training and government schemes available during the crisis.
- Strabane BID Member Customers – Strabane BID has provided a platform for our members who are continuing to trade throughout the crisis in addition to working on a one to one basis with specialist mentoring support.
The Strabane BID Company has continued to lobby on behalf of its members. I welcome the initial introduction of a 3-months rates holiday by our Executive alongside the other supports available in the form of the Job Retention Scheme, Rates Support Grants and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and various loans on offer. As Chair of the Strabane BID Company, I have written to the Minister for Finance seeking an extension of the current Business Rates holiday. I fully understand the income, cashflow and sustainability challenges that BID members are currently facing at this present time and believe that this extension is vital during this time of crisis.
Like our members, the current crisis presents significant challenges for the Strabane BID Company to deliver on its exciting and ambitious business plan. The BID Company relies on income from Member Levies, voluntary contributions, sponsorship and funding from Derry City and Strabane District Council. The current crisis has resulted in a substantial reduction of income from Levy contributions. To date the BID Company has collected £25,589.00 in levy payments from a total levy budget of £96,000.00 for the year ending 31st October 2020. The Strabane BID Company relies on income from Levies to deliver on its Marketing and Communications, Access and Improvements programmes, mentoring and support for local businesses and its events programme for the year. For this reason, I have also been lobbying central government to follow other devolved administrations in supporting BID Companies throughout Northern Ireland to deliver on their mandates and ambitious plans for Town Centre renewal and promotion.
Looking to the near future, myself and fellow directors will be working with our BID Members to deliver a refined and refocused business plan with the aim at demonstrating that Strabane Town remains an excellent place to Shop, Visit, Live and Invest in. To this end, I welcome your feedback on how the Strabane BID Company can deliver on your priorities over the next 3-6 months. My fellow Directors and I will be hosting a BID Business Engagement Webinar later in May with further details to follow in the coming days.
Chairman, Strabane BID Company