The demise of Boston’s Business Improvement District (BID) at the end of 2013 did not mean the end of the road in terms of businesses in the town having a voice and a way to make that heard.
Since the BID was voted out by traders in November the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce has stepped in to try to fill the ‘vacuum’.
The chamber’s work here is being co-ordinated by Harry Drury, company director of Thomas Campbell estate agents, the Boston-area council member for the group.
He said: “Since the failure of the Boston BID at the end of 2013, Lincolnshire Chamber – Boston Area has worked with a range of partners to try to pull together a number of strands left as the BID’s work was ceased.
“Unlike the BID, that could call upon a mandatory levy from business rate payers within a set area, individual businesses people have committed their time, together with membership fees, and have worked with the county chamber to ensure that a total vacuum was not left.
“The real benefit has been having an existing locally based and businesses led group that could instantly react and pick up on activities that members in the town felt they wanted to get involved with.”
Harry stressed that this role at the chamber aims to work with the council, rather than against it – pointing out the things businesses would like to see done to help them in the borough.
He added: “We work closely with the local authority and other partner organisations to encourage new business and help make Boston an enjoyable and prosperous place to live, work and shop.
“We have a strong ethos to work with the council to achieve positive results as opposed to working against them and have found that forming relationships and an understanding of each other’s objectives is the only way forward.”
Although the country is emerging from recession no-one would argue that these are not still tough times for traders. So what’s on the chamber’s agenda to boost Boston’s fortunes?
High up on the shopping list is tourism, says Harry. The chamber is supporting the ‘Boston Visitor Economy Partnership’ - looking at what could be done to get more people into the town and, then, hopefully spending more cash with our businesses while here.
The group has recently produced a town visitor guide and is working on a plan to market Boston to outsiders.
Also high on the list is superfast broadband – with the chamber lobbying to try to fast-track the installation of better internet. It has run workshops, with more free events in the autumn to be put on as superfast comes to the borough.
Boston Area Chamber Business Panel meetings are also held twice a year with the Bank of England’s regional agent and provide some of the chamber’s most influential businesses with the opportunity to discuss current and future economic matters which are then channelled back to the Banks Monetary Policy Committee.
This give local businesses the opportunity to have their views and opinions heard on a national stage.
Locally the chamber also has the ear of representatives from the county council’s highways department – looking at roadworks and closures as well as the age-old issue of parking enforcement – and also works further afield to look at overseas trade for the borough’s businesses.
Harry said: “Many businesses in the area export goods and the chamber has continued to work with those to facilitate trade overseas.
“Our work in this area not only looks at existing businesses but those businesses that are looking outside traditional markets to promote what is unique about local products and services.”
Harry is also looking to boost numbers with a recruitment drive – particularly in the wake of the BID result as the town looks to move on from the vote in a positive sense, putting behind the debate about the pros and cons and BID and finding a way to work together for the better of the town and to give the area an economic lift.
He told The Standard: “Members joining can make a difference locally but also benefit from a range of products and services provided through the county chamber. Members meet regularly to discuss the priorities that they want to focus on, but often don’t have the time or resource to fully follow initiatives through, and that’s the key benefit of having the county chamber on board.”
He said members benefit from discounted prices and subscriptions to utility bills, merchant services and health cover, networking, marketing through regular newsletters, sharing success with awards, plus ‘unrivalled access’ to Lincolnshire’s agriculture businesses through Select Lincolnshire for Food, and tourism/hospitality businesses through Visit Lincoln and Visit East Lincolnshire.
○ For more information and to get involved contact area chamber council member Harry Drury at Thomas Campbell Estate Agents on 01205 205206 or email email@example.com
○ The chamber teams up with the council to run free bi-monthly networking meetings with Boston Business Club. The next one is Thursday, March 27, 7.30am-9.30am, White Hart Hotel.