by John Barclay
When I accepted the position of Executive Director in January of 2016, I was quite frank about how I saw my primary function working with the Old Town Kemptville BIA. I was going to either help “build it or blow it up”.
The jury is still out on how successful we’ve been. “We” because the current BIA Board of Management is committed to creating much more value to BIA Members and Associate Members than we currently offer. The alternative scenario remains – the status quo is simply untenable; we can’t continue in our current form. The BIA comprises a tiny physical footprint representing no more than 70 to 80 businesses and tries to provide value to all of Downtown Kemptville on a budget of less than $25,000 a year.
As we approach our ten-year anniversary on January 1st, 2018, the question of expanding the Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area boundaries to better serve the local business community is attracting not only interest but also support from existing members and potential members alike.
A bit of background is necessary at this point – In 2015, the BIA received matching funds from the Eastern Ontario Development Program to commission a Business, Marketing and Programming Plan from the consulting firm of McSweeney & Associates. In their final report dated July of that year, they recommended: “In order to successfully support the achievement of the Downtown Vision, and achieve greater resident and visitor attraction to both Downtown and to Kemptville, McSweeney and Associates recommends to the Municipality of North Grenville the consideration of a new BIA to be established for the Urban Service Area of Kemptville that includes the current BIA area”. In July of this year an BIA Expansion Steering Committee was struck to identify the potential new boundaries and set a date for one or more formal public information sessions. The Steering Committee, chaired by our Treasurer, Stephen Bent (Manager,CIBC), recently completed an Expansion Prospectus which was approved by the BIA Board of Management for public distribution and discussion two weeks ago.
The Old Town Kemptville BIA has a two-fold aim in proposing boundary expansion: to continue our work reasserting the importance of smart growth for Kemptville and to expand our programs into adjacent areas, where they will add value to property owners and businesses alike. Next steps include meeting with Council and Municipal staff and quickly holding public meetings to determine the degree of interest in proceeding with the proposed boundary changes.
The Expansion Prospectus focuses on lowering the levy per $1,000 of current assessed value from $2.30 to $1.00 while presenting a range of itemized budget items to prospective members. A new Kemptville BIA would see its budget increase from $25,000 to $131,000 based on a lower levy and a larger footprint. It would provide for such things as a regional marketing campaign as well as local advertorials highlighting at least 24 businesses a year; an office with full time staff and a detailed Economic Survey every three years. Put out to tender, this professionally conducted detailed survey would provide members with detailed information about the trading area and customer preferences within it – beyond what is available through Statistics Canada – including people-on-the-street interviews.
All businesses in Kemptville share some common interests. A Kemptville BIA would be a better advocate for economic development within our community, with the goal that employment growth in Kemptville is realized through the retention and expansion of local small business.
The boundaries of the Old Town Kemptville BIA were created over ten years ago. Since then there has been significant growth in North Grenville and we will see even more commercial growth over the next 5 years. A new more effective Kemptville Business Improvement Area should be in in place to meet this challenge.