New BID for life

DESPITE losing its council funding, Fremantle’s business improvement district (BID) may continue through a paid membership system.

BID chairman Karl Bullers says there is a “strong contingent” of members keen to see the organisation continue, and later this month the board will meet to consider options. Its council funding runs out on June 30.

“Given the lack of initial funding it is likely to have to be a paid membership system but we are still consulting members to see if this is feasible,” Mr Bullers told the Herald.

“The BID achieved some great things in the last couple of years and I think was really starting to hit its straps, get businesses and building owners working together.

“It would be a real shame to lose the small retailers’ voice that BID offered, so even if it only remains as a uniting body for retailers it would be a positive outcome.”

BID CEO Nicci Workum said they had heard rumours that some angry members were threatening to withhold their differential rates in protest at the council’s decision.

But she says they’ve checked the legality of the council’s decision to divert the rates and it looked solid, meaning anyone holding back payment would be breaking the law.

• BID CEO Nicci Workum and project officer Jenny Marslen still face an uncertain future. Photo by Steve Grant

Ms Workum says despite the threat to her own job, she’s not viewing the funding cut as doom and gloom.

“Change can be an opportunity to learn from what is there and use it for the positive,” she said.

“There are some amazing operators in Fremantle, and they need to work together.”

BID project officer Jenny Marslen says she’s extremely proud of the BID’s achievements, but working at the grassroots level meant there was a lot that went unrecognised. She says they did a lot of quiet training getting businesses switched on about keeping customers in their store.

“The council has said that it will be able to meet all the needs of small businesses currently being met by the BID, but I’d really like to know how they can do that,” Ms Marslen said.

She fears bureaucrats will be too tied to policies to adopt the “outside the box” approach the BID has prided itself on.

Ms Marslen said it was disappointing the council had given up on the BID when it had been so forward-thinking introducing it in 2012.

She says they now get visitors from around the world dropping in to find out more about the BID, including representatives from cities considering their own.


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