Three city business leaders have joined forces in a plea to support a vote to retain the business improvement district (Bid), Aberdeen Inspired.
Gary Atkinson, who founded and owned Carmelite Hotel and was also founder and vice chair of Aberdeen Inspired when it was first established in 2011, said the organisation was essential if the city was going to recover from the effects of Covid-19.
John Michie, of Charles Michie pharmacy, who was founding chair of the Bid alongside Mr Atkinson, and Richard Noble, managing director of property firm FG Burnett and subsequent chair, also voiced support for the Bid as the ballot on its future draws to a close.
Mr Atkinson said: “As we come out of pandemic and look towards recovery, now more than ever we need the business improvement district to represent and support businesses in the city centre.
A force for good
“Aberdeen Inspired has been a force for good for the last ten years and it is a leader in the collaborative partnership businesses have with the local authority and other organisations. If the Bid wasn’t there, who would do it? There is nobody else.”
Mr Michie said: “Since the BID was formed it has built essential partnerships that are key and it acts as a facilitator and the glue for the city centre. It is absolutely imperative that Aberdeen Inspired continues and I would urge anyone who has not yet voted to take the opportunity to vote in favour of retaining the Bid.”
Mr Noble, added: “The prospect of not having Aberdeen Inspired around does not bear thinking about – if Aberdeen Inspired was not here we wouldn’t have access to additional funding for improvements to the city centre and events which bring footfall.”
Mr Atkinson, who also formed the Merchant Quarter Initiative on the Green and was recently acknowledged by Frank Whitaker, chairman of the Aberdeen City & Shire Hotels Association (AC&SHA) for his many contributions to the city, said that the region faced unprecedented challenges.
“As we go forward, we need to recognise there are hard times ahead for city centres, ours included.
“People may take for granted some of the achievements that have been made over the past ten years but they shouldn’t.
Thanks to initiatives such as NuArt, we have more street art in Merchant Quarter than almost anywhere in the world.”
“People forget that The Green was once a ‘no-go area’ – there were prostitutes and drugs and regular really bad fights. Now thanks to initiatives such as NuArt, we have more street art in Merchant Quarter than almost anywhere in the world, it’s second only to Miami, as well as live events such as Jazz & Inspired Nights on the Green.”
Since selling his Aberdeen hotel in 2020, Mr Atkinson now supports other businesses and for the past year has been advising hospitality forums to Scottish Chambers of Commerce throughout the pandemic crisis.
Like other Bids across the UK, Aberdeen Inspired must ballot the firms in the area it covers every five years who then must pay a levy to fund the organisation and its activities. The organisation raises around £1m a year from over 800 business. There are also a number of firms who make voluntary payments as well, including Aberdeen Football Club and Jim Milne, the chief executive of Balmoral Group.
Aberdeen City Council this week voted to support the Bid.
In addition to the levy payments, which go to support city centre improvements and initiatives, the Bid brought in an additional £2million in other funding in 2020.
The ballot, which will determine if there is sufficient support to keep Aberdeen Inspired going, closes Thursday at 5pm.
Majority support required
The Bid will only proceed if the majority of the businesses vote in its favour by number and rateable value and a minimum turnout figure of 25% is also achieved.
Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “We are extremely grateful to everyone who has added their voice to the ‘Back the Bid’ campaign and we hope their strong support demonstrates the importance of retaining a Bid for our city centre.
“We would like to thank all the businesses who have taken the time to cast their vote and urge anyone who has not yet done so to return their ballot papers before Thursday.”