An interim board of directors will lead the new Sidney downtown business improvement area (BIA) into its first foray into marketing the community and hopefully attracting new customers to town.
Angus Matthews, a director on the board of the Sidney Business Development Group — the organization that spearheaded the BIA — says the board met shortly after the Town of Sidney approved the BIA to formalize their interim status, which will operate the BIA until their first annual general meeting in September.
At that AGM, a new board will be elected from among the BIA members — all business owners and property owners — who each get a single vote.
“We want to get this moving in advance of the summer season,” Matthews said. “Our next priority is holding a branding session.”
Both Matthews and SBDG chairman Cliff McNeil-Smith have stated already that the BIA needs to tell Sidney’s story outside of the area in order to attract new visitors.
“Branding is really about a promise,” Matthews explained. “It’s about what you get when you come to Sidney. What makes Sidney a great place to work and to live.”
The board of the new BIA has hired Eclipse Creative, a Victoria communications agency to lead this process. As of this week, a survey is online at www.sidneybiz.com, asking people about Sidney and its future.
“It’s really about capturing what people really think are the best points of Sidney. We will use those responses to shape the marketing of Sidney.”
Matthews added in addition to the online survey, focus group sessions will be held, followed by public meetings for input and discussion. The success of the BIA, he noted, will come from people’s willingness to make it work.
“The BIA has to offer something for all of the business community,” he said. “That’s going to be the challenge.”
Various businesses have different needs, he said. Owners have varying ideas, as well, on who their customers are and how they access their shops. Having the BIA, in the end, representing all of those interests means there are going to be some serious challenges.
One of those will be to establish the role of the BIA in Sidney.
Matthews is aware of pressure they face from various local groups and even from the Town of Sidney itself. In its recent budget discussions, town councillors have suggested the BIA could be a new source of grant money for various events or programs.
Matthews said the BIA is not going to be in the business of starting events or contributing to their start-up, and have been meeting with people to clarify this.
“The BIA’s role is to support and enhance existing events,” he said. “This is a fund that the business community is paying for, on top of the significant taxes they pay, and it needs to be used for promotion and marketing of what Sidney has to offer.”
Matthews said the BIA is not a fund for other things.
As the BIA unfolds, the interim board has posted a job for a part-time communications co-ordinator. This position, Matthews said, will be the contact point between the BIA and businesses. As well, Eclipse Creative will be tasked over time with collecting data and statistics to help measure how the BIA is doing.
“The business community will need to see how the BIA is going to make (the local economy) better. “It’s a big job and that’s what we’re setting out to do.”