2019 was an exciting year for the Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area (OTK BIA). This past year brought new faces, new and re-imagined programming, and more opportunities to continue the revitalization of the Downtown Kemptville community. It was a year of renewal and hope. We want to express our sincere gratitude to all of those who contributed to the growth of our downtown community, including our business and property owners, our volunteers, and our “Friends of Downtown” partners, you have all been essential to our success.
One of the first things that we did in 2019 was to hire a new Executive Director, Deron Johnston, who has brought new energy, a fresh perspective and some creative ideas on:
- How to develop new meaningful programming that would benefit more BIA members;
- How to strengthen relationships with our current members;
- How to encourage new relationships with people & organizations beyond the footprint;
- How to further grow the BIA’s influence out into the greater community.
The BIA had lots of accomplishments to be proud of in 2019:
- Continued to support the downtown business community in maintaining a high level of occupancy.
- Supported highly successful events that attracted thousands of people to the Downtown area, such as Kemptville Live, Canada Day and Kemptville Pride.
- Created two new programs for Kemptville Live, including a special discount promotion for festival-goers that encouraged them to visit Downtown businesses, directly resulting in increased traffic and revenue for participating businesses.
- Highlighted the importance of holiday times for our members, helping them to capture the potential economic activity available through revitalized holiday programming, e.g. Easter Bunny Hop, Kreepy Kemptville, and Old Town Kemptville Christmas.
- Added new, more innovative programming, including promotions like Not Just Ladies Night and the Twelve Days of Christmas that supported businesses by helping to connect them with new customers and introducing different demographics of visitors to all that Downtown Kemptville has to offer.
- Began the process of crafting a community-led vision for downtown by creating a community design plan that encourages meaningful engagement from BIA members, stakeholders and residents.
- Organized and hosted an Eastern Ontario BIA roundtable meeting for all BIAs from across Eastern Ontario to allow them to share ideas, discuss their unique challenges, and work collaboratively to develop practical and creative solutions.
- Developed local business development workshops, designed to encourage entrepreneurship or encourage expansion of existing businesses.
- Applied for and received grant funding to implement the Digital Main Street program, which allowed us to hire Megan McDonald as our Digital Service Squad coordinator. Megan, in turn, advised over 50 Downtown Kemptville businesses on how to improve their online presence (giving them advice and tips on improving their social media, developing a website, creating a newsletter etc.) and helped them apply for further grant funding.
- Improved the flow of communication with our members and the general public, highlighting all of the events, promotions and news about the Downtown Kemptville community.
- Continued to work on expansion of the BIA footprint to bring the benefits of belonging to the OTK BIA to a greater number of businesses in Kemptville and North Grenville.
Leveraged funding from the Main Street Revitalization Fund to purchase new street furnishings to be placed in the Downtown area in 2020.
- Worked collaboratively with the North Grenville Economic Development Department to generate increased private investment in the Downtown through the Community Improvement Plan (CIP). Despite less than 30 days to apply to the program, a door-to-door campaign resulted in nearly the entire amount allotted by municipal council being used. The CIP facilitated $104,226.25 worth of private investment in Downtown. For every one CIP dollar granted, it resulted in attracting $2.21 of private investment.
2020 promises to be a year of more hard work. We will continue our march towards expansion of the existing BIA footprint; continue to develop programming that is meaningful to our BIA members; improve one on one relationships with individual BIA members; improve our relationships with key stakeholders in the community and with those who are willing to work with us to achieve shared goals.
We will remain open to new opportunities that we can either drive or support; continue to be the driving force in the economic development of Downtown and of the community at large; push forward with the beautification of Downtown, including the development of the Riverside Park, Rotary Park and the old public and elementary schools.
The coming year will be filled with high expectations, multi-stakeholder collaboration, and a continued sense of optimism, as we strive to demonstrate to our members and the greater community that better is always possible. Both the short and long-term goals that we have set for ourselves are ambitious, but we are driven by our sense of responsibility to our members and our passion for creating an inclusive community that benefits all of us.
From the members, volunteers, partners and stakeholders of the Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area, we would like to wish everyone a fantastic 2020!