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BIA to brand the Elmira experience

Elmira’s downtown business group hopes to spread the word life is sweeter in Elmira as it rebrands itself and, indeed, the entire community. The branding campaign is part of an expanded BIA budget approved this week by Woolwich councillors. Rather than just concentrating on downtown shopping, the organization will instead play up the merits of the entire Elmira “experience,” explained BIA chair Krista McBay in a presentation to council Tuesday night.

“Instead of focusing on businesses, we’d focus on marketing the whole town. It is a great place to live. It’s a great place to raise your family and to shop. We want to make sure that people realize what a gem of a town it is.”

Under the banner of “life is sweeter in Elmira,” the organization plans to highlight the benefits of authentic small-town living, pointing out available amenities to both existing residents and to nearby residents.

“So many people in Kitchener-Waterloo don’t realize how close they are to Elmira. … We want to remind them that we’re just 10 minutes down the road.”

Plans are underway to revamp the billboard signs on main entrances into the town. Lamppost signage is being investigated. Posters and flags, as well as websites, will all sport a standardized appearance, bearing the logo, she explained.

That branding effort will account for most of the additional $20,000 added to the BIA’s base budget of $30,000, collected from a special levy on downtown businesses. The extra money includes $10,000 in membership dues from King/86 Developments and $10,000 drawn from the $90,000 one-time payout the group received from King/86. Those funds were part of an agreement that saw the BIA withdraw from legal wranglings surrounding the Walmart-anchored power centre in St. Jacobs.

Other items in the budget include the usual beautification measures, including $6,300 for hanging baskets, down by almost half from last year, as the supplier of the flowers will also maintain them.

While the budget contains $6,800 for the portable roadside signs, the BIA hopes to phase them out. That wish is likely to be accelerated by the Region of Waterloo’s new sign bylaw, likely to prohibit such uses.

The elimination of those signs was welcomed by councillors, with Coun. Mark Bauman adding that improvements to the billboards coming into town would make them more useful, as the messages on some of the current ads are too small for passing motorists.

After tabling the budget, McBay called on Woolwich, through its economic development officer, to help revitalize the core.

Where once there were no vacancies downtown, there are now several, she said.
“We need businesses. We need merchants – we don’t need more offices downtown.”

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