First step toward a downtown BID

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff


NALETTA BURR (upper right) of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. explains the benefi ts and workings of a business improvement district to about two dozen people at an informational meeting held Monday at the Plymouth Arts Center. — Review photo by Emmitt B. Feldner NALETTA BURR (upper right) of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. explains the benefi ts and workings of a business improvement district to about two dozen people at an informational meeting held Monday at the Plymouth Arts Center. — Review photo by Emmitt B. Feldner PLYMOUTH – A business improvement district could be one tool to continue the marketing effort that has begun for downtown Plymouth.

That was the message delivered Monday at an informational meeting on a potential downtown BID held at the Plymouth Arts Center.

By the end of the two-hour session, an exploratory committee had been formed to look into creating the financing tool to continue the downtown manager position.

The current manager, Randy Schwoerer, noted that the grant that has funded his position expires this summer and, in order to continue the position, a new way to fi nance it needs to be found.

“This is sort of a what do we do, where do we go from here meeting,” Schwoerer told the two dozen business and property owners and city officials present.

“All around us, organized downtowns are doing well,” he added, pointing to BIDs in the city of Sheboygan and the Main Street program in the city of Sheboygan Falls.

Naletta Burr, community account manager for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., led the meeting through the resources available to communities for their downtowns.

The WEDC offers several programs for downtowns, including the Main Street program and Connecting Communities, Burr said. Plymouth currently is a member of the Connecting Communities.

“You’ve got an amazing infrastructure. You’ve got beautiful buildings in your downtown. You’ve got committed business owners,” Burr said of Plymouth’s downtown.

“We are admired greatly for having the least amount of open space in our downtown,” Schwoerer added.

But maintaining and enhancing that, and reaching goals for the future, will require dedicated management, she added.

A business improvement district utilizes an assessment on each property included in the district – above property taxes – to finance the BID plan.

Sheboygan BID Manager Dave Hoffman told the group that in that city’s two districts – downtown and Harbor Centre – that assessment is $2.65 per $1,000 of assessed valuation a year, with a minimum for each property of $3,000 and a maximum of $8,000.

“Only you can determine if it is worth it,” Burr said of forming a BID. “The best BIDS are inclusive and have a good plan. You as business owners decide where the money goes. The best strategy is to determine what you want to accomplish, set a budget and determine what you have to do to get there.”

“You’re really going to have to sell people on the future value,” Hoffman agreed. “It takes opportunism and tenacity and it will pay off eventually. From my viewpoint it will be benefi cial.”

Burr noted that there are more than 80 BIDs in communities across the state. Each BID sets its own boundaries, creates its own plan, establishes fees and administers the program.

Any proposed district must be approved by at least 60 percent – by number or by property value – of those included in its boundaries, Burr explained.

“To get a BID in place requires work, it requires some initiative from the business owners,” Burr admitted.

“Certainly, the city is not the driver of this process,” City Administrator Brian Yerges told the audience. The program is created, driven and administered by the involved businesses, he added.

Burr touted the community-wide impact of successful BIDs. “Your residents are the stakeholders in this. Your downtown is the face of your community,” she stated. “You do see a return on the investment. You do see improvement in downtowns.”


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