Interview with Melanie Beck MBE, CEO of MyMiltonKeynes
Interview with Melanie Beck MBE, CEO of MyMiltonKeynes
As Melanie Beck MBE announces her retirement as CEO of MyMiltonKeynes, we take a look back at her success at the helm of the Business Improvement District (BID), which is today the fourth largest BID outside of London, representing over 350 businesses based in CMK, discuss her proudest moments over the last seven years, and what she is most looking forward to in the future.
Melanie, you led the project to create the MyMiltonKeynes BID almost seven years ago and were instrumental in the renewal of it in 2021, talk to us about your initial vision for the Business Improvement District in Milton Keynes?
Almost 10 years ago, I joined MKCCM as City Centre Manager. At that point, with business membership declining, I quickly came to the realisation that a more consistent and financially sustainable approach was needed to represent business interests and the welfare of city centre employees. So, within 90 days of joining MKCCM, I was embarking upon a feasibility study to find a viable solution, one which would create a world class business district in the heart of CMK, enabling businesses, and people to thrive.
Until that point, there had been very little appetite around creating a Business Improvement District within Milton Keynes in fact a previous attempt had been futile, but, as we conducted surveys, consultations, and steering group meetings to understand whether we could make this work, the feeling come across that businesses wanted this, they wanted to see change. Consequently, in February 2017, after the submission of our five year business plan, 82% of businesses voted in favour of the BID. It was a huge achievement, and the culmination of a vast amount of work and commitment by MKCCM and its partners.
What positive improvements have been made to central Milton Keynes, that would not have been possible without the BID?
The £1 million pot through the BID provided a vehicle to make real change and we were able to make a difference very early on with some low-hanging fruit initiatives, such as jet washing the pavements and removing graffiti. Cleaning up the city was no simple task of course, in fact the culmination of the mammoth spring clean saw workers brighten over 33,000 metres squared of paving, the same as almost 5 Wembley football pitches! Pest control was another significant achievement and we managed to massively reduce rat sightings by 80%.
MyBus, of course, has been a great example of what the BID has made possible. This network was the first-ever free shuttle bus service exclusively for the employees of BID businesses, enabling faster movement around the City Centre, overcoming parking issues and increasing footfall and spend for retailers. The positive impact, created as a direct result of the work of the BID has been continual, and the programme of events, such as the Christmas Light Switch On, are enjoyed by all, but it’s the more discreet work that the BID has been behind which has been making a real difference, including ringfencing two additional Thames Valley Police Officers dedicated to the BID area.
What are some of your proudest achievements throughout your time as CEO of MyMiltonKeynes?
The list is endless! Of course, I was enormously proud of securing the BID along with the backing of businesses back in 2017 as I effectively put my reputation on the line. Businesses once again voting in favour to renew the BID in December 2021 was another key milestone, particularly as the vote this time around was 93% in favour. The creation of the MyBus network and the supporting MyMiltonKeynes App was significant too, and this achievement was recognised on a nationwide platform when we were nominated for a national transport award. Our ambassador programme is another initiative I’m incredibly proud of, these people act as a conduit between MyMiltonKeynes and the people within the BID, reporting anything of concern including health and safety related problems, anti-social behaviour and any concerns relating to homelessness issues in the city.
During the pandemic, like all organisations, we were forced to pivot from the projects we originally had planned for 2020/21, and there are several initiatives forged during this period that I can look back on with pride. But what stands out for me is the success of MyDriveIn, where people from the community were able to come together, albeit in their car bubble, to enjoy movies at key times including Halloween and Christmas. These events really fed people’s craving for a sense of normality, and they were a huge success, attracting over 22,000 visitors. People still mention MyDriveIn, and I receive many requests for it to return!
On a personal level, being awarded an MBE for ‘Services to the Community’ during the Covid-19 crisis was a moment of immense pride, and it is also a privilege to be part of a team which has built MyMiltonKeynes over the years and delivers the messages of the ‘My City’ brand extensions every day. As a team we have a huge amount of civic pride which was highlighted last year when Milton Keynes was granted city status.
Throughout my tenure, the BID has generated an inward investment of £10 million pounds for the city centre, which has all gone towards improving and enhancing the surroundings. While continually supported by my fantastic team, I can look back on all of this and think, “I did that!
Q. What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to take over the helm as CEO of MyMiltonKeynes?
I would say honestly that it takes a lot of time, and we need the same level of commitment from the next person. It isn’t just about putting on events and attending dinners and meetings across the city, there is so much more to it and whoever I hand the mantle onto will need to put their heart and soul into the role, potentially making themselves available 24/7. Let’s not forget that the BID represents over 350 businesses across CMK and 60% of these are in the retail and leisure sectors, they often need to speak to you during the evening or across weekends so it’s definitely an ‘always on’ mentality. Hard work aside though, the variety of the job and the rewards are immense.
Q. What do you wish for the future of the BID in Milton Keynes?
Of course, my main wish is for the BID to continue well into the future. It is secure now until 2027 and I feel that I am leaving it in a strong, successful position. My hope is that this stability is sustained and MyMiltonKeynes continues to receive the support and backing from CMK businesses, while the BID continues to improve the area. I am also hoping that my successor brings new, fresh ideas and makes their own mark on the BID.
Q. And on a personal level, what are you looking forward to in your own future?
Jacinda Ardern’s quote during her resignation speech as New Zealand Prime Minister summed up my thoughts exactly: ‘I’ve got nothing left in the tank.’ As many people will know, I have endured a torturous 12 months as a result of my cancer diagnosis. Coming face to face with your own mortality is a sobering moment and while it makes you reflect; it also magnifies everything that’s important. I’ve been working at full speed for over 40 years! I’m going to step back, enjoy my home, my garden, read, visit the gym, and spend more time with the apple of my eye…my grandson. Life is for living!