Downtown Brantford BIA's History, purpose, and mandate
A BIA is a geographic area in a municipality. Each BIA has a Board of Management which is an organization set up to provide business promotion and improvement functions.
BIA allows local business people and property owners to join together and with the support of the municipality, organize, finance and carry out physical improvement and promote economic development in their district. The local municipality is the body responsible for approving the budget of the BIA.
In 1970, the province passed enabling legislation in response to a request by the business community in the Bloor and Jane Street area in the City of Toronto for special authority to establish the Bloor West Village BIA. Provisions for creating and operating a BIA are now contained in Sections 204 to 215 of the Municipal Act, 2001.
In addition to Bloor West Village, there are now more than 230 BIAs in place across the province. They vary in size from less than 60 businesses and property owners to more than 2,000.
The BIA concept has also spread beyond the boundaries of Ontario. The concept has been adopted by more than 1,500 communities across the United States, in most provinces in Canada and has now taken hold in Europe.
The Brantford Downtown BIA was established in 1977.
A BIA could be likened to a neighbourhood association or union of businesses that work together toward its main purpose of revitalizing and maintaining a dynamic local neighborhood and promoting the area as a business or shopping destination. While a major goal of revitalization and retention is to encourage both local residents and others to spend their shopping 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 local businesses. It also benefits professional service firms, whose clientele can enjoy the local 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 BIA.
Further activity is needed beyond just beautification and promotion, although both are important elements of any comprehensive improvement effort. A concerted effort is also required on the part of the BIA leadership to develop a network of relations 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 BIA lies in establishing and maintaining this network. It is only through the combined effort of all local community groups that a BIA can truly be successful.
Revitalization and maintenance often includes defining an identity for the local community. This identity is then used as means to further promote the local community as an interesting and unique business area. In some cases, leaders of the BIA (the Board of Management) become a line of communication between the community and the local municipal Council. The BIA forum can be used as a vehicle for conveying community concerns to Council and, lobbying Council to pursue policies and activities that will promote and strengthen the community and its unique identity.
What does a BIA do?
The BIA has a two fold mandate:
- to oversee the improvement, beautification and maintenance of municipally owned land, buildings and structures in the area beyond that provided by the municipality generally, and
- to promote the area as a business and shopping district.
In carrying out these responsibilities, BIAs have become involved in numerous activities, which often include:
- Marketing: Understanding who the customers are, and creating effective promotions to retain and expand the customer base.
- Business Recruitment: Working with property owners to help ensure that available 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.