Bidding war

THE battle for $370,000 levied on Fremantle CBD businesses is on in earnest.

This week Fremantle council’s marketing department laid its claim to the differential rate imposed on businesses, proposing the money should be stripped from the Fremantle BID and put towards a new destination marketing advisory group.

This approach, put forward by the council’s economic development and marketing manager Tom Griffiths, has the support of the local chamber of commerce which would have a seat on the new group.

But the BID has ramped up its own lobbying, releasing a survey of 148 member businesses this week which found 90 per cent would rather their money stay with the BID than the council.

• Kyle Rodd from Key Sole in High Street says he’s impressed by the fact BID staff regularly drop by to see how things are going. “The events they put on in Fremantle, like the long table, I think are pretty good and it seems they are well organised. They are very involved in the community.” Photos by Steve Grant

“Our retailers are already feeling the pinch due to a high number of shop vacancies and significant construction works and hence a tourism-based mass marketing campaign is not going to assist these businesses at a grass roots level,” BID chairman Karl Bullers said.

“This is further reinforced by the research which demonstrated that 39.2 per cent of businesses stated that the events held by the City of Fremantle had no impact on their business with a further 23 per cent saying it had a negative impact on their turnover.”

The BID survey found that 71.6 per cent of business owners felt the organisation understood the needs of local business, while the chamber rated only 18.2 per cent and the council 14.9 per cent.

Mr Griffiths’ model would see the council’s in-house destination marketing wound up.

He says while the advisory group would be administered by the council, it would be at an arms length and include a small number of paid marketing consultants.

• Sam Pangiarella at Warrens Menswear says businesses he’s spoken to aren’t convinced the BID’s been a winner. “There were a few things they did that made us scratch our head, like those planter boxes. A couple of years ago myself and a couple of other business owners tried to get the coffee festival back running again, but when we asked the BID for support they said that’s not what they do. I’m sitting on the fence, though, it could be great for the town.”

It would have responsibility for the city’s overarching marketing approach, engaging local businesses, appointing a marketing agency and sponsoring local business-led events.

New BID board member Sam Reece contacted the Herald this week to outline how the organisation was refocusing to tackle vacancies.

“Some areas of the city have 28 per cent vacancies,” Ms Reece says.

The aim is to make Freo a “Mecca for creatives” by putting out an international call to attract people with a business idea. They’d be matched with a landlord and the BID would initially subsidise their rent in the hope the business takes off and becomes permanently established.

“We’re also looking at hiring buskers to play for six hours a day,” Ms Reece says, while a business coach would meet with local business people to offer them advice on how to weather the current rough economic times.


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