The St. Jacobs Business Improvement Area (BIA) is off and running, Woolwich council having this week approved the appointment of its six-member board of management.
The members include Jenny Shantz of Mercedes Corp., Gary Boudreau of La Crème Decor & Essentially BLACK, Phil Hipkiss of Block Three Brewing, Craig Miller of Xclusive Elements, Edward Denyer of Eco-Coffee Corporation and Robert Wilbur of Quarry.
Boudreau says the BIA is coming to fruition at a critical time.
“There’s going to be a lot of roadwork going on in the next 12 to 24 months. We have to have a voice in what’s happening, when they’re going to close the roads, what roads they’re going to close, how they’re going to announce and market and sign them. I guess if there’s a priority, the priority in my mind is going to be to make our way through the construction period of the next year to two with some input,” Boudreau said.
He says the first thing on the agenda will likely be figuring out who has been doing what and where they’ve been getting their money because the village does have some flowers and a relatively nice streetscape.
“It’s one thing saying look we’ll contribute to these improvements if the township and the region and whoever else contributes but we’ve never really had that opportunity to encourage improvements with our financial participation. Without being specific, I think we’ve just got to all sit down and decide,” Boudreau said.
As a business owner on both ends of the village, as well as a real estate agent with two large listings in St. Jacobs, he wants to ensure he knows what’s happening in the village and joining the board is a great way to do that.
It helps that he also has some previous BIA experience.
“Years ago in downtown Kitchener I was a shopping centre manager at Market Square at that time. I was on a BIA in Kitchener. At another point in time I was on the BIA or they called it the DBA, downtown business area, in Waterloo. In this area I’ve been involved in both Kitchener and Waterloo,” Boudreau said.
He says those BIAs were better able to plan special events and he’d like to see the St. Jacobs BIA plan some summer events in the village.
“It’s a very logical environment for independent people to be communicating with each other about what’s going to make the promotion work. And we’ve all got these ideas, and we’ve all got connections. It’s just really more than anything I think taking advantage of the expertise that is out there,” Boudreau said.
He says it’s also important from a visual standpoint to make sure the village remains attractive and current and clean.
The board will be set for one year and then nominations to be board members will be available again. He says the group is a good mix of business owners.
“We’ve got a marketing fellow, we’ve got a beer guy, we’ve got a coffee guy. I think we pretty well cover the retail categories. I’m happy with it. It’s very important to have Mercedes as an active participant because they own more real estate than anyone else in the village itself.”
From the township side of things, Coun. Mark Bauman has been part of the BIA discussions for the past year. He says any time the township can support business is a good thing.
“Having a cohesive business community that can all pull in the same direction makes much more efficient use for that community for the dollars that they invest in whatever they choose to invest in. I know there’s some business owners who probably aren’t in favour of it, but I think by and large a business improvement association is a good thing for a local business community,” Bauman said.
He notes there are grants a BIA can tap into that an individual business isn’t eligible for. This will enable them to have a unified voice to come to council with their concerns and inquiries. And having Wilbur from Quarry Communications, a local marketing company, will be a great addition to the board.
“That in itself is just a goldmine of information and talent that is on the board. St. Jacobs has a very diverse group of business owners down there, anything from restaurateurs to clothiers to beer makers,” said Bauman, who will serve as council’s representative on the board.
Boudreau thinks the BIA should take things slow at the start to give them time to analyze what they have and determine where they need to go. He says there’s no question what they do for marketing will be crucial, but it can’t start tomorrow.
“Generally speaking everyone has the same need when it comes to traffic flow. We want the weekends to be very strong, but we’re also there Monday through Friday. We just have to look intelligently at how we’re going to spend our marketing dollars and again from an improvement standpoint, I’m sure we’ve all got ideas of what we’d like to see happen, as far as light posts and parking markings and things of that nature,” Boudreau said.
Ever since discussions began roughly two years ago he says they always said they’ll be seeking input from the village’s businesses. He doesn’t know what that will look like yet, whether they’ll each be assigned to a certain block and so forth.
And while historically Mercedes Corp., as the largest landlord, has led the marketing of the village, he says it will be nice to have other voices to support them.
“As a business owner in the village it’s critical that we market ourselves to the world and make the village a destination. And over the years things have changed and I think now we’re at a point where it’s even more necessary. We tried to do this about eight years ago and there just wasn’t enough commitment, but now I think we’ve concluded that it’s necessary to tell everybody how great we are from a marketing standpoint,” Boudreau said.