Sidney brand in the works

BIA, chamber praised for sticking their necks out

Momentum is growing for Sidney’s new business improvement area (BIA) as it works towards creating a brand for the downtown core — so much so that even one initial naysayer has joined the society to help ensure it reaches its goals.

The BIA and the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce held a joint open house on Wednesday, May 8, explaining each of their roles in the business community and how their collaboration will serve to maintain and, hopefully, increase local economic fortunes. Rosemarie Bongers, a spa owner in Sidney, had raised concerns about the BIA’s added cost to owners already facing high rents and a slow economy. She said she joined the BIA to watch her money and see how the BIA will benefit her business

“I want to ensure the BIA focuses on the downtown catchment area,” she said.

BIA board chairman Cliff McNeil-Smith said they are in the process of creating a business plan and building the brand that the BIA will eventually market and promote to places outside of Sidney.

A speaker in the audience praised the people behind the BIA for sticking their necks out for the initiative, which garnered applause from the room at the Mary Winspear Centre.

McNeil-Smith noted, however, that their work is still ahead of them. The BIA received last month an advance on its annual levy of $150,000 from the Town of Sidney. Another $100,000 will be forwarded by the municipality in July as property taxes are paid. McNeil-Smith said they’ve used that money to engaged the services of Victoria consulting firm, Eclipse, to help create the Sidney brand.

“We have a unique business district,” he explained. “The question now is how did Sidney get to be as big as it is. We need to talk to people who come here, who work here, to see what works.

“Our goals to promote Sidney to the people who would be coming here to shop or to visit. We want to be able to reach our potential.”

To that end, the BIA hosts a branding exercise tonight (Wed., May 15), welcoming the community to help shape Sidney’s selling points. BIA board member Angus Matthews said ideas will be laid out for all to see and, ultimately, the brand will be about upping the game in Sidney — focusing on improving customer service and ensuring that any promise Sidney makes in its marketing is one that the business community can deliver on.

After the branding session, the BIA board will set a direction, marketing and business plan and look to start promoting Sidney to potential new customers.

Chamber, BIA have complimentary roles

As the BIA plans to promote what Sidney has to offer, the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce exists to address specific business issues on the Peninsula and takes a leadership role in it support of local business.

Chamber executive director Chris Fudge says a lot of their role is to help build business in Sidney and on the Peninsula. They are membership-driven and have a board of “problem-solvers” who are keen on collaborating with groups like the BIA which also contribute to the grown of the local economy.

“We do have the experience from a broad range of sectors in the community,” Fudge said. “Our focus is on service and value to our members.”

The chamber also advocates for local issues, notably workforce housing, transit options and more. Their scope includes all of the Peninsula business communities, so they are supportive of the BIA which seeks to promote one specific part of this region.

“There is value in businesses who support each other,” he continued. “It takes work, a driving organization and a supporting organization to resolve issues and move ideas forward.”