The Old Town Kemptville has been a key part of the community for a number of years now; but, despite many conversations with people over the years, there are still some who don’t know about, or understand what exactly a Business Improvement Area (BIA) is, or sometimes that it even exists.
So, we decided to do a series of frequently asked questions (FAQ) to help people learn more about the BIA, what it is, how it works and what it does.
What exactly is a Business Improvement Area (BIA)?
A Business Improvement Area (BIA) is a “made-in-Ontario” innovation that allows local businesspeople, commercial property owners and tenants to join together with the support of the municipality, to improve the conditions for businesses to be successful and to improve the quality of life within a specific, well-defined footprint. A BIA is established by a municipality often at the request of business and property owners or other stakeholders. To establish a BIA, a specific municipal bylaw must be created and passed by Council. BIAs are considered a Committee of Council and governed by provincial legislation called the Municipal Act, 2001.
What Can a BIA Do?
Local businesses, working collectively as a BIA, become catalysts for improving the local business environment and quality of life of the community. As a Committee of Council mandated by provincial legislation, BIAs manage a budget using an elected Board of Management and, through the municipality, collect a levy from businesses in the area to raise the necessary funds for that budget. BIAs help to create the conditions for businesses to be successful and improve the quality of life for the community through activities such as:
- Pursuing street level enhancements, furnishings, beautification measures and other improvements to make the area more inviting to attract more visitors.
- Marketing of the BIA as a business, wellness, tourism or shopping area through the creation of effective marketing tools, events & programming, social media and other supports.
- Seeking out learning & business development opportunities, government funding programs and other tools to help their members to be successful.
- Hosting both BIA and community-led festivals and events in the Downtown area.
- Ensuring community safety through diligence, observance and advocacy.
- Creating strategic plans for economic development, community development and other improvements on behalf of the members.
- Building relationships and partnerships with other groups, organizations and municipal government to build a stronger community.
- Advocacy on behalf of their members as a unified voice on matters that are important to and significantly impact the membership.
How Does a BIA Work?
A BIA is run by a volunteer Board of Management elected from its members. The Board is elected at an Annual General Meeting (AGM) and, once approved by municipal council, serves a four-year term concurrent with the term of Council. The Board works on behalf of its members and meets monthly to manage budgets, set priorities, create plans & strategies, organize events and activities, oversee day-to-day operations and market the BIA (downtown) as a destination.
How is a BIA Funded?
Once the BIA members approve the budget at the Annual General Meeting and municipal council approves it, funds are raised through a small levy on all commercial and industrial properties within the BIA’s footprint. Calculation of this levy is based on the proportionate value of each property’s commercial assessment as dictated by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). Once the Municipality collects the levy, it forwards the funds to the BIA.
What Are the Benefits of a BIA?
By creating a vibrant neighbourhood commercial area and marketing it effectively, BIAs can help their member businesses better compete in an age of big box retailing and online shopping. By working collectively, BIAs can help small “Mom & Pop” businesses increase their chances of success by leveraging the collective efforts, resources, expertise and knowledge of other member businesses.
BIAs can also work to protect the best interests of their members when dealing with matters involving various levels of government on a variety of issues.
BIAs can be catalysts for civic improvement and significant contributors to the local economy and help improve the quality of life of the greater community.
By working collectively with other groups and organizations to help preserve the unique built heritage and natural assets of the community.
If you ever have any questions about the BIA or are simply curious about what’s happening Downtown, just send us an email at [email protected] and we’ll add you to our mailing list for our newsletter. There’s always something going on in Downtown Kemptville.