A new year brings new and creative ideas for the members of the Elmira Business Improvement Area (BIA) and its new executive board. At the helm, Jennifer Patterson of Inspiring Accents has succeeded Krista McBay, owner of the Elmira Home Hardware, as the organization’s chair.
The downtown business organization is seeking a new focus, looking to BIAs elsewhere for ideas and contemplating the addition of a part-time staff person to keep things organized. On Feb. 6, the local group will be getting an evaluation and input from Kay Matthews, executive director of the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association. The OBIAA, established in 2001, represents, supports and encourages member BIAs to increase their effectiveness and their contribution to the economic and social well-being of their communities. The main goal of the organization is to strengthen downtown cores.
“This is something we have never had and sort of lacked over the years. We have always just gone about our business without the proper guides, so instead of doing that this year we are going to look forward to this new year and try to do things in a more progressive way,” said McBay.
With the OBIAA, the plan is to have Matthews come into Elmira to tour the town then sit down with the municipal officials and the board to discuss what the successful BIAs do in Ontario to generate traffic and breathe new life into the downtown.
“We are really hoping for some positive feedback from her,” said Patterson. “She is going to provide the members with a BIA 101, show examples of successful initiatives and answer questions from our members about how the BIA should operate, what their responsibilities are and how people can get more involved.”
The BIA is holding an open information session for all its members when Matthews comes to town on Feb. 6 to discuss how to create a general awareness of the BIA, and what they do and can do.
“Our hope is to get more members of the BIA involved in the downtown and helping out at more BIA events like the sidewalk sale. We are planning to implement some new events this year and are currently working on them,” said Patterson.
The BIA is continuing to work on their marketing program and its Life is Sweeter Campaign now that they have a fresh new executive board.
“We have new businesses that have come to town who are stepping up and helping out we seem to have more energy going forward,” said McBay. “Hopefully this will help with the marketing programs that were started to become complete.”
The BIA will also be meeting with the township regarding signage. Woolwich is undertaking a review of its own sign bylaw, with the organization eager to provide input given that recent changes to the Region of Waterloo’s bylaw have eliminated opportunities for using signs on the approaches to Elmira, particularly Arthur Street South.
“We are looking for a way to get our signs back up because it really benefitted more than just the businesses: it benefitted the non-profit organizations … basically everyone. There was a huge cry when the region told us to take down our signs. We are just trying to get the word out to people and let them know what is going on and when you take one more thing away it just makes that job that much more difficult,” said McBay.
The Elmira organization is currently in talks about adding a part-time administrative assistant through the township to help out with new initiatives and administration, a move the BIA hopes will foster communication among members.
“We are still working on the details for a part-time position for the BIA at the township. We have a job description that we have for the township to look over,” said McBay. “The person is already in place at the township it is just a matter of deciding how much of their day will be spent dealing with BIA issues.”
The new board members are Mayor Todd Cowan (beautification committee), Derek Patterson (marketing and communication), Jennifer Patterson (chair), Krista McBay (past chair), Freda Walker (secretary) and Keith Shelter (finance).
For McBay, the changes are a chance to step back at least a little bit from the organization to concentrate on her own work.
“I am taking a backseat role. I am there to help (Patterson) when ever she needs it. I am just so busy with my own business and I have to really focus on that. I have been on the BIA for seven years, so it is time for me to take a rest,” said McBay.
The BIA has set up a new email address for members and volunteers to used to contact the the downtown business organization: email@example.com.