Business heavyweights have thrown themselves behind Aberdeen Inspired labelling it “one of the biggest tools for recovery that Aberdeen has in its locker”.
Russell Borthwick, Bob Keiller and Ojay McDonald have joined forces to “back the bid”.
And they cautioned against “bemoaning Aberdeen city centre” urging support for local businesses to secure the region’s economic recovery.
In line with Scotland’s other Business Improvement Districts (Bids), Aberdeen Inspired must ballot the firms within the footprint every five years.
A successful ballot on June 24 will allow it to continue working on behalf of local restaurants, shops, bars, shopping centres and other city centre businesses until at least 2026.
Adding his support to the campaign, Ojay McDonald, chief executive of the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM), said Aberdeen Inspired was a “crucial” part of progressing development in the city centre.
ATCM is a not-for-profit organisation with members across the public, private and third sectors who develop shared visions for town and city centres throughout the UK.
He said: “There is so much in flux at the moment that we can’t afford to be without one of the biggest tools for recovery that Aberdeen has in its locker.
“The Bid has been excellent in supporting its businesses with great comms and great support during this crisis, and there’s going to be troubled times ahead.
“During the pandemic we’ve seen some astonishing results of Bid which have gone through their renewal ballots successfully because businesses recognise the importance of having that private sector co-ordinator.
“That leadership that can help be the voice of businesses and help drive them forward through difficult times.”
‘Stop bemoaning our city’
Mr Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, warned against bemoaning the state of our city centre. He encouraged people to “get out there and do something”.
He said: “Our city centres have been hard hit by the approach taken by governments to tackling Covid and need all the support they can get to recover.
“Don’t just bemoan the state of our city centre, get out there today and do something about it. Support our local businesses, put your cash in the tills of shops, bars, restaurants and hotels. It’s needed now more than ever.
“For the last ten years, Aberdeen Inspired – working with other partners like the Chamber – has been delivering innovative and award-winning activities creating a vibrant and appealing location rich in culture and entertainment.
“From the internationally acclaimed Nuart international street art festival to the International Comedy Festival, from Aberdeen Jazz Festival to Restaurant Week, from creating a Christmas Market to gaining purple flag status for a safe night-time economy.
“And from bringing parklets to our streets to launching the Aberdeen Gift Card, supporting local retailers.
“And there is so much more on the way. But only if Aberdeen Inspired wins a further five-year term in the ballot being held this May and June.”
The impact has already been positive
Bob Keiller, former CEO of Wood Group and chairman of Asco Group, said Aberdeen Inspired has already had a positive impact on the city and its efforts are now needed more than ever, as local businesses look to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The challenge to Aberdeen city centre, in keeping with so many others, is stark and Covid-19 has only served to accelerate this,” he said.
“It is imperative, in the coming months and years, that there is a collaborative approach, at both local and national levels. This will build considerable financial stimulus and support to regenerate and repurpose our city centre and make it fit for purpose.
“Cities are vital to the economic wellbeing of this country and Aberdeen Inspired has consistently played its part in leveraging in much needed capital for a wide range of strategies and initiatives that support this cause.”
The average Bid levy equates to around £5 per week. At just 1% of rateable value, it is the lowest in the country and for every £1 of levy collected, at least £2 is invested in the city centre.
In recognition of the challenging times faced by businesses as a result of the pandemic, the levy in Aberdeen would be reduced by half in the first term (2021-22), dropping to just 0.5% of rateable value for the first year.
Aberdeen Inspired recently launched its Business Plan for 2021-2026, which highlights the priority actions across five themes.
These are helping your business; promoting the city centre; ensuring the city centre is attractive; a safe and welcoming heart of the city; and securing additional funding for projects.
These will be rolled out if Aberdeen Inspired secures a positive vote.
The Bid says it would also reinvest the £7.4m generated by the levy and potentially double that investment through leveraging funding from sponsorship, voluntary levies and national grants and funding streams.
Aberdeen Inspired was established to attract, sustain and boost investment in the city centre for the benefit of its levy payers and all those who live, work, shop and visit there.
Purple Flag accreditation
It recently successfully retained the city’s Purple Flag accreditation for the eighth year in a row.
The standard requires excellence in the management of the Granite City’s evening and night-time offering as well as in the safety and wellbeing of visitors and citizens.
Aberdeen was the first city in Scotland to be awarded the accreditation in 2014 and is held up as an example UK-wide, having been re-accredited every year since then.
In addition to the levy payments, which go to support city centre improvements and initiatives, the Bid brought in an additional £2m in other funding in 2020. This is almost double what is collected by levy.
The Bid footprint covers Union Street and the surrounding streets, including Broad Street, Market Street, Bridge Street, Huntly Street and Holburn Junction.