Blogs

DATA, DATA, DATA

This morning I returned to the office after a few days away at the Institute of Place Management’s biennial conference. After the standard return to work procedure of being horrified by how much paper had I left all over my desk, sifting through the emails that I couldn’t respond to on the fly, and attempting to coax the sad basil plant on my windowsill back to life I wanted to spend some time reflecting on the days beforehand.

At one point during the conference I put my hand up and asked a question which could possibly have been rephrased as ‘what is the point of this project?’ I realise that that could sound rude but it honestly wasn’t meant to be! I was attempting to figure out exactly what the raison d’etre of the project in question was, what were the end goals and how would anyone know if they had achieved them? After a little clarification, all became clear. A good proportion of the speakers at the event were practicing academics, a group of people who in are better than your average punter at defining their terms, and I think that is something that BIDs need to ensure they are doing day to day.

The front cover of the Cardiff BID business plan says, ‘even better to visit meet, study, work and invest’ which is a great starting sentiment but it’s important that we get a proper handle on what we mean by better before we start delivering projects. What ‘better’ means can be a tricky question for business improvement districts (as can what constitutes an ‘improvement’ to the ‘district’). A ‘better’ environment for a business in one unit may not be a better trading environment for their neighbour; it is important that BIDs take a broad view and consider their area as a whole when delivering their work.

The Cardiff BID business plan commits to using footfall figures, occupancy rates, car parking & crime data as well as an understanding of new business activity in order to measure whether things have indeed become ‘better’. Clearly the hope is that footfall and occupancy rates have a stronger performance, new businesses flourish and crime goes down. The team are also committed to annually surveying businesses and consumers as so much of people’s decision making tends to rest on perception rather than solid facts.

The BID doesn’t say yes to all the projects that are suggested to it, we turn things down if they don’t quite match up with our objects. Looking at projects we have delivered it is hopefully easy to see why they were approved: street cleaning and hanging baskets improve perception of the city centre, the sponsorship of events such as the Snowdogs Tails in Wales trail bring additional visitors and media exposure to the city and our bike clearance scheme increased the number of parking spots available making it easier for cyclists to enjoy the city. These projects all make something ‘better’, their outcomes are all ‘improvements’.

Summer 

By Emily Cotterill, Cardiff BID – posted 21st August 2017

Does anybody ever get over the nostalgia for the six-week summer holidays? The last time I had more than two uninterrupted weeks away from work I was 16 but I still find myself thinking back to summer days waking up with weeks unplanned time stretching out in front of me – the main concern in my life being scouting around W H Smith and Woolworths (!) for a new pencil case to take to school in September. The feeling of being put out that I don’t get such a break now is probably not helped by the fact that my mother, my sister and one of my best friends are teachers but such is life!

Somehow it seems that the work we get up to in the summer should be more fun – the equivalent of saying ‘miss can we work outside’ on an end of term day of glorious sunshine. We have some fun stuff going on at Cardiff BID with our on-street table tennis on The Friary, our support of Mill Lane Arts week and our efforts in promoting everyone else’s summer fun (do tweet us @Cardiff_BID if there’s something you’d like to promote). There’s also a sense of getting ourselves ready, doing the maths homework and the required reading that all good students are supposed to get done sometime between mid-July and early September – we’ve been working on removing some of the abandoned bikes taking up much needed space in the city’s cycle racks, we’ve just wrapped up a survey assessing our members training needs meaning that come the autumn we’ll be literally sending businesses back to school for heavily discounted or even free training.

Even though for most of us the dream of a long summer holiday is long gone there is still something which feels a little relaxed about the summer and that’s followed by a certain productive feeling about the autumn, we might say it’s the back to school buzz even for those of us who haven’t been away. The list of projects that we will be kick starting once the seasons change is getting more substantial and exciting by the week. Keep your eyes peeled for news of our autumn update event so that you are one of the very first people to find out more and in the meantime, get out and enjoy the sun, maybe even fit in a game of table tennis while you can. Summer won’t last forever, in fact the Ambassadors have recently started talking about the office Christmas dinner!

1st Year 
By Emily Cotterill, Cardiff BID – posted 13th July 2017

There’s a lot of ‘this time last year’ about as we pass the anniversary of a certain referendum and the political fallout that accompanied it. Here in the Cardiff BID office though there is a local and less complex one year on to look back on – a year has passed since the successful ballot to establish Cardiff BID. To be clear, the BID has not been in operation for a year, the company formally launched in December 2016 following the necessary processes for setting up the company, but back on June 1st 2017 the BID board, still the BID task group back then, were celebrating after successfully achieving a majority of votes from city centre businesses and securing £7.5million of investment over the coming five years.

A lot has happened in Cardiff since then as the city has readied itself for this fresh wave of investment and in the spirit of looking back down memory lane here are a few highlights

Completion of One Central Square

The first phase of the major redevelopment around Cardiff Central station has become fully operational, and fully let, over the months since July 2016. In fact Cardiff BID held their official launch in the slick new offices of Blake Morgan with key business stakeholders looked out over the brand new views created of the city, the slick new office space is home to many key Cardiff businesses such as S3 Advertising. The rest of the Central Square development continues to take shape with the ultra-modern new headquarters for BBC Cymru Wales emerging from behind the hoarding.

A Raft of Other Openings

One Central Square gets its own moment in the limelight as a major step on the path of a major project but those aren’t the only doors to have opened in Cardiff in the past year. Cardiff has said ‘croeso’ to The Hashery, Asador 44, The Seafood Shack, a new and improved Lush Spa, Gareth Bale’s Elevens, and 200 Degrees Coffee to name just a few. There’s plenty more going on behind the scenes in the city and if there is one thing a BID team know it is that an apparently empty shop is often nothing of the sort – keep your eyes peeled for more exciting developments such as the grand re-opening of the legendary Philharmonic soon.

The Roll Out of a Raft of Cardiff BID Projects

Of course we’re proud of the work that Cardiff BID has already accomplished be that: the fantastic team of Ambassadors out on the streets building relationships with businesses and helping out the public, the new taxi ranks we have established to support evening revellers, our sponsorship of existing Cardiff events such as the Swn Festival and the Iris Prize, setting the Castle Quarter on the path to superfast broadband with an investment matched by Openreach, the floral displays brightening up the city centre experience, keeping Christmas safe with Operation Mistletoe, offering free training to levy payers, delivering counter-terrorism advice, funding the excellent Cardiff Street Pastors and putting Cardiff on the map with press appearances on TV, radio and in print.

When you list them our achievements one after the other like that then it really does sound like we’ve been busy (because we have!) but rest assured there is much much more in the pipeline – there are plenty of projects we can’t say too much about for now but we’ve got plans involving keeping more money in your pockets, shifting spending around the city and bringing whole new levels of fun to the streets of Cardiff – keep your eyes peeled for more information and remember to follow us on Twitter @Cardiff_BID for all the latest.

 

Training
By Emily Cotterill, Cardiff BID – posted 13th June 2017

Once upon a time I was trapped in a stuffy council meeting room in Eastleigh, Hampshire listening to an overly chatty first aid training provider talk about how close he lived to other first responders. It was a beautiful day and this same chatty man had promised us that we would be finished by 3 o’clock which, as he rambled on, seemed to become more and more of a pipe dream. I think it is fair to say that there are certain types of training which feel like necessary evils, I have never met anyone excited to attend an emergency first aid at work course but the country is full of people who now know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver which is, when you think about it, strangely comforting.

Not all training is created equal of course and alongside the requirements of law there are plenty of exciting training opportunities that you might want to send yourself, or your staff, along to. Providing great training opportunities is an excellent way to demonstrate the fact that you value your employees and the better skilled your staff are the better they can work for you – whether you want to ramp up your social media presence, better train your sales assistants in upselling, or ramp up your visual merchandising skills to create a shop window worth of Liberty the courses are out there for you.

We’ll be sending around a survey soon to gather members views on exactly what they want a skills top up in with options from basic book-keeping to conflict resolution but in the meantime if you have any ideas then please do get in touch with us. I once worked with a woman who was sent on assertiveness training, something I never would have known existed otherwise. I can’t promise that if you need to train up your waiting staff in origami napkin folding or teach your security team defensive martial arts we will be able to help you but if you think you have a suggestion with potential mass appeal then by all means put it on the pile.

One of the benefits of being part of a BID is that you have access to the communal purchasing power of hundreds of other businesses and we are about to put that power to work to deliver cut price training courses for our members so next time you’re at the end of a long day of emergency first aid at work training at least you will be happy in the knowledge that this life saving knowledge is being given to you on the cheap.

What better benefit could there be than a half price Heimlich maneuver?

 

UEFA
By Emily Cotterill, Cardiff BID – posted 28th April 2017

It’s hard to move in Cardiff without encountering the words Champions League – it seems that every leaflet printed, window washed, or conversation carried out between strangers is somehow linked back to June and the road to Cardiff. In an effort to tone down the constant flood of UEFA preparations news we bundled all of our relevant work together and presented it in one shot earlier this week alongside the launch of our lovely team of Street Ambassadors.

The Street Ambassadors are one of the BID’s major projects and when the city is full of brand new visitors they will be an invaluable presence in tourist information – ambassadors Louise and Mat may well get to practise their developing Italian skills if Juventus make it through next week’s semi finals! Look out for the team in their bright red uniforms – they are all happy to help!

By the time the football fans pour into Cardiff we will have made another colourful addition to the city with the installation of nearly 400 hanging baskets. We’re particularly excited to see them appear outside Cardiff Central station which will add some much needed colour to the grey world of the building site. It’s a shame that we couldn’t gaze into a crystal ball and pick the plants that would match the team colours of the finalists but even so the additional splashes of colour will help to bring a more festive spirit to our major shopping streets.

Our third and final piece of pre-game preparation is an additional wave of street cleaning. It might not be glamourous but it is underlying elements such as the state of our streets which have a real impact on perceptions of the city. It’s important to remember that the BID are not paying for work that the council should already be doing, everything we fund is additional. I like to think that the council’s role is to look after the streets like a person looks after their house, the BID does the extra cleaning that you do when your mother in law is coming to visit!

Obviously we’re very keen for the city to look its best when the eyes of the world are on us in June but there is life after football and, let’s not forget, the world is filled with people who don’t care about football (of which I am one). The projects that we are delivering to make the city shine for the big game will last way beyond injury time, extra time, penalties and any other football jargon that I am not about to learn. We’re here to make the city superb, whether Real Madrid are stopping by or otherwise.

 

Superfast Broadband coming to the Castle Quarter 

By Emily Cotterill, Cardiff BID – posted 23rd March 2017

Precisely how the internet works is not something I have given a huge amount of thought to. I might have spent a moment amazed that twenty-first century children will never hear the legendary dialling tone and if push comes to shove I suppose I’ve been shocked at how quickly we seem to have got this infrastructure in place but beyond that – not a lot. The internet is something piped into my home and office allowing me to send emails, buy train tickets and re-watch an entire series of Downton Abbey in one weekend, which just goes to show how quickly we have adapted to the age of information. We may be just a couple of decades into this bold new age we generally take the clever cables connecting us to the world-wide-web entirely for granted.

For businesses currently operating in the Castle Quarter area of Cardiff however the internet is in no way such a guaranteed luxury. The increasingly dense business population in the area coupled with old infrastructure has meant that businesses from solicitors to vintage stores, PR agencies to coffee shops are currently struggling along with speeds far too low to service the needs of a modern enterprise. For most small businesses paying for a direct line into their premises at the cost of several hundred pounds a month is far outside the realms of possibility and so over recent months many small businesses have been struggling on often returning home to upload photographs and generally banging their heads against their desks.

The problem is that BT, the organisation charged with maintaining and developing the broadband infrastructure nationwide are not under any obligation to provide upgrades simply because an area has seen an increase in traffic. This has meant that many businesses have been pushed to the brink of leaving the area and potentially the city for good and so Cardiff BID have stepped in to help fund an upgrade bringing the historic Castle Quarter into the ultra-modern superfast age. The investment of £44,000 is one of the first major projects that the newly formed business improvement district has committed to but local businesses can expect to see over £7.5 million of investment in Cardiff over the coming five years meaning that many more bonuses for businesses are in the pipeline.

Sadly the upgrade to superfast broadband can only happen at a terrestrial speed and there is some significant work to be done. With the BT team now working on the project business can expect to see their shiny new fast speeds, and potentially reduced costs, to have arrived by this time next year but in the meantime make sure to keep your eyes peeled for additional project from the Cardiff BID delivering better business prospects to Cardiff city centre.

If your business is located in the Castle Quarter and you have questions about the scheme you can view the FAQ sheet here or get in touch with a BT Superfast Advisor on 03000 603 000