Watford Business Improvement District (BID) works for and is funded by town centre businesses, working together, investing in and improving the town centre.

I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the Watford Observer’s Our Town campaign and say what Watford means to me. It was a great opportunity to take a step back and reflect - and at the same time recognise that what makes Watford stand apart from other towns is the people that have live and run businesses here and the passion they have for the town, and their collective ambition to see it thrive.

One of the biggest challenges for a BID, especially in towns like ours, where there are a lot of national chains, is that decisions are often made in head offices far removed from the local town centre, and yet these decisions not only impact on the employees, who are often local residents but on the town and its businesses as a whole. Each day we hear national retailers reviewing their business proposition invested in bricks in mortar. However, town centres are much more than just shopping centres, they are social and community centres, where people of all ages come together to shop and spend leisure time together. We can help our business in the town prosper if we remember this and continue to use our centres and the full range of services they provide for everyone. Watford is a great town with a huge offer and we all need to support it.

This was challenging when we started out, balloting businesses about creating a BID – local managers often backed the concept of a BID but were told their company votes no at a national level, in every BID ballot. It is something we continue to see with many of our projects, from local hairdressers being told they can’t enter our Service Excellence Awards despite being keen, to retail managers not receiving permission to join our shop radio system, despite seeing how it helps curb shoplifting. However, for every business that can’t get involved we have many that can and do, and together we try to boost the town centre for all businesses – and residents.

Last week’s Watford Food & Drink Week was our big promotion of the town’s restaurants, bars, pubs, clubs, cafes and fast food outlets. We ran adverts and promotions with local media to showcase the variety of the town’s offer and to encourage people to come into Watford when they might not have done otherwise, or to extend a planned shopping trip to include dinner, or to try somewhere different in their lunch breaks. We’d welcome any feedback you have, as it’s an activity on which we are looking to build and improve.

Our focus for the month ahead is on our AGM which is on the June 6, brightening up the town with our floral displays and we’re working on a designated driver campaign for the World Cup with the night time economy businesses, together with Citipark car parks.

Keep up to date with BID activities by visiting www.watfordbid.co.uk.

- Maria Manion is chief executive of Watford BID