In Profile: Carolyn Brownell

By Anita Jaynes on 1 February, 2016

Carolyn Brownell is the newly appointed Chippenham Business Improvement District (BID) Manager. She joined the Chippenham BID from Solihull Business Improvement District where she successfully improved the area for those that work, live and visit the town.

With high hopes to raise Chippenham’s profile to attract both visitors and new businesses to the town, we interviewed Carolyn to find out more about the BID, its aims, what’s been achieved so far and the plans for its future.

What is a BID?
Launched in June 2015, the Chippenham Business Improvement District (BID) is a business-led initiative voted for by businesses within a specified area of the town centre. The BID is funded by a levy which is paid by businesses situated in the BID designated area and with premises over a certain rateable value. This contributes to funding the objectives of the BID to promote and improve the BID area. There are 377 businesses in Chippenham that are in the designated area and pay the levy, there are also some businesses who have volunteered to pay the levy.

BIDs are commonplace in several countries, but were introduced in England and Wales through the Local Government Act 2003, since when they have become commonplace in the UK with more than 200 established. Principally, BIDs are created to support local businesses and help them grow and be successful in their locality.

BIDs are run as independent, not-for-profit companies controlled by a board of directors and stakeholders from the town and business community. Each BID term lasts five years, at which point the local businesses vote again to decide if they wish it to continue with a second term.

What are its aims?
Each BID will have its own core objectives, which are agreed prior to the ballot to establish whether a BID should be formed. The Chippenham BID has four core priorities which shape the investment and initiatives it implements. These are; Image, Promotion, Marketing and Events; Welcoming, Safe and Clean; Access and Car Parking; and Backing Businesses.

What was the first thing you wanted to achieve after being appointed?
From the consultation it was clear that most levy payers and stakeholders felt that Chippenham needed a unifying brand identity that could be used to better promote the town, its businesses, and events. The development of such a brand would also provide an opportunity to change the perception of Chippenham to ensure it is viewed as a great place to locate and do business, to visit and to live. The branding project was a major piece of work which the BID co-funded and led on. Chippenham Connected is the new brand that was created and we are pleased with the result.

We are using the new brand, but we still have a lot of work to do to increase its visibility. It is important the brand is understood locally, and is coordinated with other marketing which Chippenham Town Council and Wiltshire County Council are involved in.

Who worked on the PR, design and implementation of the campaign?
We invited tenders and local design agency Sheard Hudson, which is based in Lacock, created the new branding for us. They did a lot of local research and, being based in the area, recognised the perceptions that needed to be overcome. The use of the historic railway arches in the brand demonstrates the heritage of the town and by using a local firm we benefited from local knowledge.

We appointed Geometry PR to manage our communications campaign. Geometry’s MD lives in Chippenham and the agency has been working with the Bath BID for the last five years. They understand in great detail what we are trying to achieve and they hit the ground running from day one, helping us communicate with the media and levy payers and offering invaluable advice.

You introduced town hosts earlier this year, what impact has this made?
The Town Hosts have been fundamental to ensuring that the BID is regularly engaging and understanding what our levy payers want from the BID. They are extra eyes and ears on the ground and are a useful liaison point between businesses and key town centre service providers.

What are your plans for the year ahead?
We have implemented a number of initiatives very quickly, such as the Free After Three parking scheme, discounted parking spaces for low income employees, city centre WIFI, breakfast meetings for levy payers, as well as the branding and the town hosts. I intend to build on these, make improvements where needed and take some time to assess and prioritise the next steps. The temptation is to try and do everything we outlined in the plan as soon as possible, but we need to be prudent with our spending and continually assess the business needs.

What do you think will be the BID’s biggest challenge in 2016?
We need to make sure we don’t try to run before we can walk. Maintaining momentum for the initiatives in a realistic manner is a challenge.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
The variety. No two days are the same.

If there was one attraction you would urge local people to visit in Chippenham, what would it be?
The Neeld Community & Arts Centre has undergone a huge transformation following last year’s refurbishment programme, and there are big plans to use it more in the community this year. I would urge local people to keep an eye out on the centre as there will be some exciting events during the year.

What Chippenham business has inspired you the most in the last year?
Overall, the hard working business ethic, particularly of our smaller independent businesses, really impresses me. But honestly, the ‘can do’ attitude of the entire Chippenham business community to make this town the best it can be inspires me on a daily basis. I have found that the majority of Chippenham businesses are brilliant at supporting each other and the BID, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to be part of the team that is fully focused on supporting and backing them and taking Chippenham to a brighter and more prosperous future.