What is a B.I.A.?

While a B.I.A. organization has much in common with others kinds of business associations,
a number of features make it unique. It covers a specific geographic area, and can only be established through a by-law passed by the municipal council at the request of the local business community. A B.I.A.’s primary role is to improve the area. As outlined in the enabling legislation, Section 204-15 of the Municipal Act, 2001, improvements are achieved through beautification and coordination of promotional efforts in the designated area.

Once a B.I.A. is established, every business and property owner within its geographic limits contributes to the organization’s budget and is automatically a member. The organization is financed by a special levy on property in that area, above and beyond the normal municipal taxes and is collected by the municipality. The annual budget is prepared by the B.I.A., approved by Town Council and then administrated by the B.I.A. Board of Management as it implements its program of activities for that year.

The Board of Management is made up of volunteers from the diverse membership of the downtown business community. A recommended slate is determined by the B.I.A. membership, generally through an election process (which is the case with the Goderich B.I.A. Board). The election results are forwarded to Town Council for approval. In addition and at it’s discretion, Council may appoint additional members.

Under the direction of the Board of Management, the program of the B.I.A. usually involves improvements to the physical environment and appearance of the business area, and economic redevelopment programs such as area-wide promotions and advertising campaigns. They are planned and implemented by committees created through the B.I.A. Board and are composed of Board members and local business people.

B.I.A. organizations provide a structure that allows separate and sometimes competing businesses to cooperate for their mutual benefits, and it establishes a mechanism for long-term and assured funding for the organization. This form of organization also allows a large number of independent businesses to adopt the same centralized management techniques, shared projects, unified promotions and advertising methods that have made the shopping centres and malls – their main competitors - so successful.

In effect, the B.I.A. is a self-help organization supported by the municipality, but the most important element by far is the local business community.  Widespread and continuing support from a very large proportion of the local businesses and property owners is essential to the success of a Business Improvement Area.

What does a BIA do?

The B.I.A. has a two-fold mandate

to improve, beautify and maintain public lands and buildings within the BIA, beyond that which is provided by the municipality at large, and

to promote the area as a business and shopping area

In carrying out these responsibilities, B.I.A.s have become involved in numerous activities:

Marketing: Understanding who area customers are, and creating effective promotions to retain and expand the customer base

Business Recruitment: Working with property owners to ensure that available public space is occupied, and that an optimum business and service mix is achieved and maintained

Streetscape Improvement and Other Amenities: Providing for more customer-friendly lighting, signage, street furniture, planters, banners and sidewalk treatment

Seasonal Decorations: Creating a unique and pleasant environment for customers and staff of all businesses, retail and non-retail, through the use of decorations that are appropriate to the season and holiday

Special Events: Organizing and partnering in special events that highlight unique attributes of the area and increase customer visits

What is the purpose of a B.I.A.?

The main purpose of the B.I.A. is to revitalize and maintain a dynamic local neighbourhood and to promote the area as a business and shopping destination. While a major goal of revitalization and retention is to encourage both local residents and others to spend their dollars within the local commercial district, all businesses and residents in the area may benefit as well.

Revitalization and maintenance create a cleaner, safer and more congenial atmosphere that benefits all businesses. It also benefits professional service firms, whose clientele can enjoy the atmosphere as part of their trip to the doctor, dentist, lawyer or accountant. The same is true for entertainment and dining establishments which benefit from the increase in local traffic and the improved atmosphere that results from the presence of a B.I.A..

A concerted effort is required on the part of the B.I.A. leadership to develop a network of relationships and partnerships among local community groups (schools, churches, citizen groups, etc.) and institutions (Chamber of Commerce, committees of council, etc,) The key to the success of any B.I.A. lies in establishing and maintaining this network. It is only through the combined effort of all local community groups that a B.I.A. can be truly successful.

Revitalization and maintenance often includes defining an identity for the local community. This identity is then used as further means to promote the local community as an interesting and unique business area. In some cases, leaders of the B.I.A. (the board of management) become a line of communication between the community and local council. The B.I.A. forum can be used as a vehicle for conveying community concerns to council and, for reinforcing the need for council to pursue policies and activities that will promote and strengthen the community and its unique identity.

Who benefits from having a B.I.A.?

Business operators:

A B.I.A. can benefit more than just local retail businesses. All businesses in the area, whether a professional, dining, entertainment, finance, or retail, may benefit from the improved local atmosphere and ambience that a successful BIA helps to create.

It is the responsibility of each business to build upon the activities of the B.I.A. and ensure that the customer receives best value in an efficient and courteous manner. An expanded customers base depends on the successful partnership between the activities of the association and individual businesses.

Property Owners:

B.I.A. initiated improvements and activities may lead to an increase in property values.  Improvements help to create and sustain a more vibrant and viable economic environment within the local area. This attracts both commercial and services sector businesses to the area which, in turn, may lead to an increased demand for retail and office space, and a subsequent increase in property values.

Non-retailers also benefit:

B.I.A. improvements and activities also help to create a more vibrant local community and a more prosperous local economic environment. A more vibrant community attracts more visitors and retains more local customers of all types of services – including dining, entertaining and professional services. In addition, a more vibrant community creates a more inviting atmosphere that clients and customers will enjoy visiting.

A B.I.A. is a secure source of funding:

A secure source of funding is a significant benefit to having a B.I.A.. Once the board of the B.I.A. has prepared a budget and it has been approved, the municipality collects money as a special levy on all industrial and commercial properties in the area. Funds are then transferred to the B.I.A. organization to carry out its work.

Other benefits:

increasing community interest and pride in the business area

ensuring on-going cooperation among the members of the business community

improving lines of communication between the business community and municipal council and staff

advocating membership interests and concerns through effective communication with both the municipality and other levels of government

increasing cost savings to the membership through improved integration of capital funding and promotional activities.