Category Archives: Downtown Revitalization

Teeny Tiny Summit – Rural Resurgence Webinar Recap – From December 1, 2021

The second Teeny Tiny Summit webinar series centered around the question that has arisen during COVID-19 – will rural communities take shelter from the pandemic storm or dance in the economic rain? To view the slide presentations & recording, visit the Teeny Tiny Summit website.

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Award-winning EDAC & EDCO Economic Recovery Projects

When COVID-19 cases began to spike in 2020, municipalities started exploring a variety of ways to support businesses. Across Canada, economic development organizations examined the unique challenges facing their communities and created action plans to help businesses survive and recover from disruption caused by the pandemic.

This post showcases organizations and related activities that were recently recognized by the Economic Developers Association of Canada (EDAC) and the Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO) for their economic recovery projects.

At EDAC’s 2020 Conference, three participants won the Marketing Canada Award for the COVID-19 Recovery Project/Plan category:

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2020 Ontario Regional Economic Development: A Year In Review

2020 has been an incredibly unique and unforgettable year, it’s also been a great year for the ON Regional Economic Development blog website. We’ve expanded our range of topics and have enjoyed watching our follow numbers grow. Below is a recap of our most popular blogs for 2020.

1. Top Ten Impacts COVID-19 Is Having on Local Economic Development and Ways That Economic Developers Can Help – April 23, 2020

Impacts of COVID-19 on local communities has left economic developers seeking guidance on how to best respond to the outbreak and offer effective support measures. This blog post discusses a ten-point action plan for how economic developer organizations can work through a three-phase recovery.

Continue reading 2020 Ontario Regional Economic Development: A Year In Review

Reopening Physically-Distanced Downtowns

As Ontario transitions through the Framework for Reopening Our Province, downtowns and main street areas are required to operate in different ways than they have in the past. On June 1, 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs facilitated an online Community of Practice event to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with the reopening of downtowns. Speakers Stephannie Schlichter, Director of Economic and Creative Development of the City of Barrie, Noella Rinaldo, Executive Director of the Downtown Timmins Business Improvement Area, and Kay Matthews, Executive Director of the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA), provided their input on some of the methods and techniques that their municipalities have introduced to support the reopening of downtowns.

A few key ways were identified as quick, high-impact tasks that municipalities can implement in downtowns to attract residents and boost their economic recovery:

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Supporting the Re-Opening of Our Downtowns: June Online Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice

DSC_0177Through our series of Downtown Revitalization Community of Practice events, we are continuing to build a network of practitioners with an interest in economic development and downtown revitalization across the province. Given the challenges that have emerged over the last several months across the globe related to COVID-19, particularly for small businesses in downtowns and main street areas, building those networks and sharing leading practices has taken on an even more important role. As part of that work, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) is pleased to facilitate the next session in its downtown community of practice event series, to be held on June 1st, 2020, from 10:30-12:00.

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Snapshot of 2018 Downtown Revitalization Community Report Card

Downtown Revitalization is a four-stage initiative focused on providing communities with the resources and knowledge needed to stimulate investment and reinvestment in traditional downtown districts.

Since 2005, over 70 communities across rural Ontario have used and been supported by OMAFRA’s Downtown Revitalization program and resources. Continue reading Snapshot of 2018 Downtown Revitalization Community Report Card

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

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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:

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.