by John Barclay
We’re back with a monthly feature thanks to the North Grenville Times and the local businesses advertising on this page. Each month, the Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area hopes to share the many business opportunities and cultural activities that are available in Downtown Kemptville, as well as information on issues that affect the area.
First of all, you may be wondering: “What exactly is a Business Improvement Area (BIA)?”. Strictly speaking, the mandate of a BIA is to provide business promotion and to improve Municipal property within a specific area; however many BIAs do much more. The mandate of the Old Town Kemptville BIA includes providing leadership and advocacy for businesses, building owners, residents and those who work downtown. They work to build community and to create a thriving commercial and social hub in North Grenville.
One of the misconceptions about BIAs is that they’re funded from general tax revenues; they are not. A BIA’s budget comes from a “self-imposed” business levy on commercial properties. It’s the building owners and their tenants within a specific geographic area who have decided to fund the annual BIA budget.
Another misconception is that BIAs are run by the local Municipality. Although they operate under the Municipality Act and work closely with Municipal staff, all BIAs are managed by a volunteer Board. Currently the Old Town Kemptville BIA Board of Management consists of: Deb Wilson, Chair (Grahame’s Bakery), Stephen Bent, Treasurer (CIBC-Kemptville), Paul Cormier, Secretary (Salamanders of Kemptville), Blair Hamilton (Home Hardware), Lee McIlvenna (Geronimo Coffee House), Connie Lamble (Law Office of Connie Lamble) and Councillor Donovan Arnaud. All BIAs have a Municipal representative on their Board. This gives them a direct connection to Council which is very helpful in resolving most issues.
Recently, the Old Town Kemptville BIA has been reaching beyond its borders to help market and promote businesses in what most people refer to as Downtown Kemptville. Some of the things the Old Town Kemptville BIA has taken the lead on this past year are the installation of large Downtown Kemptville directional signs on Hwy 43, new stop signs at Clothier and Prescott streets, the expansion of the Rideau-Sanders Community
Improvement Program, and the development of a Downtown Pop-Up Shop Program for this Fall. They’ve also been reaching out to the other business groups in North Grenville with the goal of fostering closer cooperation to better serve and support local businesses.
It’s evident that Old Town Kemptville enjoys an incredible amount of goodwill in the greater community; it has loyal customers, supporters, and even boosters called Friends of Downtown – but, to survive and thrive, it needs more people to discover the downtown area. Businesses need to do their part, too. They have to give customers more reason to shop downtown besides the satisfaction of saying they’ve shopped locally They need to focus on creating more curb appeal and attractive in-store displays. If they can’t compete on price, they have to beat the competition on the quality of their customer service, their one of a kind product offerings and their convenient, consistent hours.
According to research done by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, between 70% and 95% of new local jobs are created by small businesses. In today’s economic environment, small local businesses need all the support they can get. Business Improvement Areas are there to help. Please join other Friends of Downtown online by liking our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/OldTownKemptvilleBIA) and subscribing to our weekly newsletter at http://eepurl.com/bnqf85.
John Barclay is the Executive Director of the Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area.