RETAIL giant Argos is backing the Bid.
The catalogue store, which has a branch in High Street West, is the latest name to throw its weight behind plans for a new Business Improvement District (Bid) in the heart of Sunderland.
Time is running out for eligible city centre companies to have their say on the scheme.
The Bid would see businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or more pay a levy of one-and-a half per cent a year over an initial five-year period.
Business leaders say the move would generate about £3.4million to invest in improvements and events to attract people into the city centre.
Ballot papers have gone out to give more than 450 firms the chance to vote on the proposal.
Argos boss Steve Snowball is urging anyone who have not yet voted to put pen to paper and back the plan.
The national retailer has extensive experience of how well Bids have worked in other parts of the country, and is giving the thumbs up to the Sunderland plan.
“As a person who has lived in Sunderland all my life, it is really good to see things being done in the city centre,” Steve told the Echo.
Steve is a founder member of the Sunderland City Centre Traders’ Association and believes the Bid will put power in the hands of those best equipped to make a real difference to the commercial heart of Sunderland.
“It needs people who work and live in the city to prioritise the things that need to be done,” he added.
Before a Bid can be established, the scheme has to win the backing of businesses which will pay the levy.
It has to attract support not only of 50 per cent of all businesses voting, but also 50 per cent of the total rateable value of those businesses.
Ballot papers were sent out last month, and businesses have until July 18 to return them.
Details of how the Bid will operate, the area covered and what is planned can be viewed at www.Bidsunderland.co.uk.