Sidney bids farewell to two hard-working figures at the Business Improvement Association (BIA).
President Susan Simosko and executive director Donna Petrie both announced they are leaving the organization and the news was met with a number of tributes from the business community.
Petrie says she arrived in Sidney five years ago, when the BIA was a fledgling organization with a mandate “to increase footsteps,” but little more. She says there was no strategic plan, policies or procedures, and almost no members, but Sidney was “a charming place, with dedicated business owners and commercial property owners.” Petrie called the 2008 recession “devastating” for businesses and she was keen to help improve the local business climate.
”As I leave Sidney for a new career opportunity, I look back and realize how much we’ve achieved together. The town is bustling with residents, visitors from nearby communities, and many from much further afield. Hotels report continuously high occupancy rates. Our not-for-profit organizations report growing numbers of event attendees. And many businesses report steady increases in profitability,” she said.
Simosko looks forward to a well-deserved rest after six “intense” years at the Sidney BIA and 14 years of volunteering before that.
She says her proudest achievement is helping contribute to a healthy business climate. In May and June of this year, the BIA conducted a survey of all 350 businesses represented by the organization. They learned that 60 per cent of the businesses who responded, experienced an increase in profitability over the preceding year and another 20 per cent “remained about the same.”
Over Petrie and Simosko’s tenure, the BIA has engaged with not-for-profit organizations and commercial property owners. Simosko describes non-profits as “critically important economic drivers,” and calls commercial property owners “the investors and in some cases, visionaries of Sidney.”
“When the BIA was renewed for another five-year mandate two years ago, we had, in essence, a 94 per cent approval rating. Over the past few years, we have sponsored breakfast meetings and other forums for property owners to express their views. I believe many are far more engaged with the community than they were before the BIA was established,” said Simosko.
With the support of her team, Petrie spearheaded initiatives to increase the value of the BIA’s free media exposure, what they calculate to be $170,000 worth. And while some business owners might not have always agreed with the BIA, the board says they always listen with respect and maintain clear lines of communication with the community. It is believed the new-look board want to continue welcoming ideas and feedback.
“I leave Sidney feeling proud of the BIA’s achievements and confident that it can continue to sustain and grow Sidney’s magic,” said Petrie.
The new Sidney BIA board is: Brad Edgett (president), Shai Thompson (vice-president), Morgan Shaw (executive director) and directors Kathy Blaine, Rod Laurie, Natalie King, Chris Cowland, Sarah Matchett, Dale Naftel, Kim Bremner, Devon Bird and Christina Georgeadis.