Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement Associations
From the city centre and across the suburbs, Newcastle contains many commercial centres. Each centre contains different mixes of businesses, residents and visitors, but all centres would like to optimise their character and commercial prosperity through a coordinated approach to economic development.
To help achieve these aims, Newcastle's Mainstreet Program was established in the early 1990's. Under this model, Newcastle City Council has collected a special benefit rate from businesses within each nominated commercial centre to pool funds for economic development projects such as marketing, public infrastructure and facility improvements, street beautification and community events.
In 2011 Newcastle City Council and the participating commercial centres agreed to an alternative model that changed from organisations being a Committee of Council to being an independent Business Improvement Association (BIA), governed by a Constitution. Council continues to collect the special benefit rate; and through a Funding and Service Agreement with each Commercial Centre, Council passes the levied funds from each commercial centre or precinct onto the relevant association. Given Council's role as the collector of the special benefit rate, it remains the overall manager of the operational framework for the local BIA network.
Each BIA is working closely with relevant Council staff to draw on assistance provided with an integrated approach to the overall economic development of Newcastle. This process has been further enhanced as each of the BIAs has developed a business plan that links the planned activity with the Newcastle Destination Management Plan.
Existing and emerging BIAs
At the commencement of the 2013 / 2014 financial year, Business Improvement Associations had been established for four commercial centres within the Newcastle local government area:
- Newcastle City Centre – Newcastle Now
- Hamilton – Hamilton Chamber of Commerce
- Mayfield – Mayfield Business Association
- Wallsend – Wallsend Town Business Association
Some of the organisations are working with Council to explore the expansion of existing boundaries from which the special benefit rate is collected to improve services provided to areas that logically operate as part of the same commercial centre. One example of this is the City Centre which currently works with businesses alongside Newcastle Beach, Honeysuckle or Wickham.
The Darby Street commercial centre operated as a Mainstreet Committee and currently has a special benefit rate levy collected. Former Committee members of the Darby Street commercial centre elected to allow Newcastle Now to manage a program of activities as an expanded cluster of the City Centre BIA. This approach has allowed Council to continue distributing the special benefit levy and see it responsibly spent on programs that benefit Darby Street.
Businesses within New Lambton, through the New Lambton Village Community Chamber (of Commerce), continue to plan small programs that will further stimulate the commercial centre. However the size of this commercial centre can only offer limited funds and a small number of business champions to establish and operate a BIA Board.
There are several commercial centres contemplating joining the Business Improvement Association model individually or collectively as part of the business incubation approach. Identified centres have typically experienced a change in the customer expectations or business diversification, and have business champions that would like to work together to activate a special benefit rate and commence programs to further stimulate their commercial centre.
Programs that use the collected funds to deliver benefits to their commercial centre are developed by each BIA and an approved Business Plan for each commercial centre is submitted by the Board of the association for approval. These plans have traditionally focused on localised marketing activity, public facility improvements, street beautification and special events.
For more information
Greg Fenwick, Economic Development Coordinator 02 4974 2471.