Category Archives: Downtown Revitalization

Location, Location, Location!

Choosing a location is one of the most important decisions entrepreneurs make when planning or relocating their business venture.

Here’s a request we received from a retail client: “I might have an opportunity to move on to the main street, but I need more information for my business partner. He doesn’t seem to think it will make that much of a difference.”

Here is our advice:

Know your customer

Continue reading Location, Location, Location!

Recap: June Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice on Addressing Seasonality

We recently held our fourth online community of practice for Ontario’s downtown revitalization community. The session focused on events, promotions, and other activities communities are using to address seasonality, and to keep their downtowns a destination beyond traditional summer and winter peak seasons. Here’s a quick summary of the session:

Sue Nicholson, General Manager of the Downtown Collingwood BIA provided an overview of the current landscape in Collingwood, the resulting focus of the BIA inCollingwood-BIA-Logo promoting the downtown (e.g. authenticity, arts, walkability), and the full range of initiatives used to even out resident and tourist visitation in the downtown throughout the year. Some of these initiatives include self-directed walking tours, various arts-based events from May to October, and mid-week events in the summer. Overall, Collingwood has been able to work with partners across the region, including “cooperative/competitors” like Blue Mountain, to build a vibrant calendar of events and initiatives that reduce traditional shoulder seasons outside of summer and winter in Collingwood. Click here to download the presentation.

Susan Carradine-Armstrong, Manager of the Downtown Goderich BIA focused in on a key event the community uses to promote the downtown in the winter, the ICEtacular goderich_BIAfestival. Over four years the BIA has been able to successfully build ICEtacular into a key event on the Town’s calendar and a prime opportunity for downtown businesses to see notable activity in a traditionally slow season. The event has been able to attract an estimated average of 3,000 people per year for the weekend and has resulted in average increases in sales for retail and food service providers in the downtown each year over the course of the event. Click here to download the presentation.

Continue reading Recap: June Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice on Addressing Seasonality

June 5th Downtown Revitalization Online Community of Practice

Surviving and Thriving with Seasonality

Join the growing network of practitioners interested in economic development and downtown revitalization when the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) hosts the next session in the series, on June 5, 2019, from 10:30-12:00.

Previous sessions have focused on measuring progress on downtown revitalization, undertaking physical improvements to support the success of businesses, and key programs to support downtown revitalization (Main Street Revitalization Initiative and Digital Main Street).

This session will focus on strategies that municipalities and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) are using to address seasonality in downtown areas, and variations in seasonal population and visitation. Representatives from the Towns of Goderich and Collingwood will discuss events, promotions, and other activities that are keeping the downtown area a destination beyond their traditional summer and winter peak seasons. The session will conclude with an interactive question and answer period, and an opportunity to share any insights you have on dealing with the challenges and opportunities that our varied, Ontario climate offers for downtown areas.

To register for the event, click on the link below:

https://june2019-omafra-dr-communityofpractice.eventbrite.ca

OMAFRA facilitates and coordinates resources and tools to assist rural Ontario communities with engaging in economic development. For more information on OMAFRA’s Downtown Revitalization program, visit our website or contact the Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisor in your area.

OBIAA 2019- Community Builders: Beyond Banners and Benches

The Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) recently held their annual conference in Ottawa, Ontario. Themed “Community Builders: Beyond Banners and Benches”, the conference focused on highlighting the ways Business Improvement Areas have changed in their 49 years of existence. From their initial roots in taking on small-scale beautification projects, many have become the lead economic development organization for their downtown area. The conference included a diverse range of sessions that reflect on the new roles of a BIA, and more specifically its role in community economic development.

Here are some highlights:

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Master the basics: Peter Kenyon, founder and director of western Australia-based Bank of I.D.E.A.S kicked off the conference with a simple message: business and economic development is fundamentally about relationship building. Peter used the story of Tom O’Toole, who built one of the highest earning single bakery retailers in Australia by mastering the fundamentals relationship building with his staff and his customers, to illustrate his point. Peter reminded us that success in economic development relies less on money or professionalized activities than it does on building strong relationships with the volunteers, staff members, and “customers” (e.g. visitors, potential investors, local businesses) that can help carry out coordinated community revitalization strategies.

Dancing

With little funding, you can still have dancing in the streets: Andrew Sercombe from Downtown London offered insights into successful strategies used to activate public spaces using limited budgets, building partnerships with their business community, or existing and emerging communities, events, and trends (e.g. Pokemon GO). Downtown London has created activation’s ranging from pop-up seating and dance lessons, to large-scale street festivals and Instagram-worthy alleyways. For each of these activation’s, Andrew shared a range of tips based on their successes and failures, which can guide BIAs of all sizes.

Social Media

Forget about Twitter: Avery Swartz, founder of Camp Tech, delivered an engaging overview of social media for BIAs. Starting with a framework for digital marketing, Avery offered tips and resources on identifying and reaching your audience, creating content (including ten ideas), and measuring impacts. For those struggling to split resources to manage multiple social media channels, Avery suggested that the best return on investment will come from a focus on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, based on work required and average monthly users.

Ortiz

Creating retail microclimates: New York-based consultant Larisa Ortiz introduced the concept of retail microclimates, where the visibility, mobility, and accessibility of an area paired with the anchors and tenant mix create a unique “retail microclimate” of businesses that support one another. Using a “Do this, not that” approach, Larisa offered tips on making sure visibility, mobility, and accessibility are appropriate for allowing complementary retail microclimates to develop.

DMS

Digital Main Street continues its expansion: Since its launch in August 2018, Digital Main Street has been rapidly expanding across Ontario. In a presentation outlining the program, there was an overview of the impacts the program has generated so far: over 1,100 businesses participating in the online digital transformation training program, $602,500 in grants that have been distributed to small businesses, and a total of 105 jobs will be created through the program.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs’ Downtown Revitalization program advocates for the improvement of rural downtown’s through engagement of organizations that contribute to economic development. BIAs remain an important partner in that work, and annual conferences like this represent a key professional development opportunity for both BIAs and non-BIAs to strengthen our understanding of strategies and actions that are producing impacts.  If you missed the conference this year, you can access the presentations here.

Follow-up to January Downtown Revitalization Online Community of Practice

Our Online Community of Practice on the Digital Main Street program, held on January 17th 2019, quickly reached capacity. Based on continued demand, the OMAFRA is pleased to facilitate a follow-up session, on February 12, 2019, from 1:00PM- 2:30PM.

This session will again focus on the province-wide expansion of the Digital Main Street program. During this webinar, representatives from the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) and Digital Main Street will be available to answer questions about Digital Main Street.

The session is open to anyone, but content will be focused on assisting organizations setting up Digital Main Street in their community, including administration of the Digital Service Squad and marketing of the program, rather than individual small businesses.

To register for the event, click here.

OMAFRA facilitates and coordinates resources and tools to assist rural Ontario communities with engaging in economic development. For more information on OMAFRA’s Downtown Revitalization program, visit our website or contact the Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisor in your area.

Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) 2018 Winners

The Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) is focused on building the capacity of its member Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) through advocacy, networking, and education. OBIAA represents, supports, and encourages business improvement areas to increase their effectiveness and contributions to the economic, cultural, and social well-being of communities across Ontario.

OBIAA’s annual conference draws delegates from across the province. The conference is one of the major learning events for Ontario’s BIA leaders and members, and allows for the sharing of knowledge and leading practices that focus on fostering community development in urban and rural town centres and commercial districts. The annual Awards showcase BIAs who demonstrate a commitment to improving their communities through innovative projects and initiatives, making these awards a highlight of the conference. Continue reading Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) 2018 Winners

Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice, online January 2019

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is pleased to offer a third session in its Online Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice series, to be held on January 17th 2019, from 10:30-12:00. This session will focus on the province-wide expansion of the Digital Main Street program.  Continue reading Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice, online January 2019

Planning your Work and Getting some Quick Wins

In this next entry in our series of blogs on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Downtown Revitalization Program, we take a look at preparing your preliminary work plan, and the importance of “quick wins” to the initiative.

Before starting to collect and analyze data, you need an overall work plan to guide the Management Committee and Coordinator over the duration of the initiative. The team should have a strong grasp of the entire strategic process when developing the work plan, to ensure the scheduling of tasks considers:

  • The potential to use data collected in one activity (e.g. business and resident surveys) to inform subsequent activities (e.g. community design workshop)
  • The availability of resources and volunteers to carry out the tasks when required, including the level of effort and time required from the coordinator
  • The municipal budget planning process, and the need to submit short and long term projects for municipal council approval in the preceding budget year

Your Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Advisor can assist you with scheduling major activities, and provide templates to assist with the development of a comprehensive work plan.

Developing your work plan also offers a chance to tackle one of the key challenges you may face – keeping the team and community engaged and energized in the initiative, particularly through the less visible activities like data collection and analysis. The work planning stage is a great time to identify and plan for some highly-visible, high-impact activities that will help to promote and generate ongoing support for downtown revitalization.

Continue reading Planning your Work and Getting some Quick Wins

Building a Team for Downtown Revitalization

Continuing with our series of blogs on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ Downtown Revitalization Program, this entry will take a look at building your downtown revitalization team.

The motivation, energy, and commitment required for successful revitalization should come primarily from the community. Those from outside of the community may provide interesting insights, but revitalization only works when members of the community, local government, and local businesses commit to ensuring the long-term success of revitalizing their downtown.

building a team chartA revitalized downtown has the potential to benefit the entire community, so the lead organization may identify potential partners from across the community, and not just within the downtown area. Organizations like Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), Chambers of Commerce, service clubs, and non-profit organizations can be key resources to engage and align with. The organizations and individuals to engage will depend on the specific characteristics of the community. Continue reading Building a Team for Downtown Revitalization

Expanded Digital Main Street Program to Support Ontario Small Businesses

The Digital Main Street program, funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and delivered by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA), will soon be available across the province to help ‘main street’ businesses become more digital.  The program will be live on August 24, 2018, and as part of Ontario’s Main Street Enhancement Initiative, it will help small businesses improve how they use digital tools and provide them with techniques to become even more successful. Continue reading Expanded Digital Main Street Program to Support Ontario Small Businesses