A group of Sidney businesses will spend their summer examining ways to boost the town’s economy.
“There was some general agreement [among merchants] that the economy … had negative impacts on Sidney business growth,” Cliff McNeil-Smith, owner of Tanner’s Books and the Children’s Bookstore told council Monday.
McNeil-Smith is a member on the board of the Sidney Business Development Group, a society of about 25 business members that is an offshoot of the Sidney Merchants’ Co-op. The co-op formed last fall with the hopes of promoting the town’s businesses in the face of a proposal to build a large commercial centre in Central Saanich.
The Sidney Business Development Group’s pitch to council Monday ties in with a branding strategy for the town, launched by the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre’s Angus Matthews and the Sidney Pier Hotel’s Lisa Makar last year.
“How does something like this get lifted off the ground,” McNeil-Smith said of the branding push. “It sounds like it’ll take some initiatives, some money to lift it off the ground.”
So after Mayor Larry Cross set aside $60,000 in the town’s budget for economic development, the group established its pitch.
The group plans to deliver data on various economic develop models, ideas for partnerships with other business groups, such as the chamber, and potential funding models to the Town of Sidney by mid September. They also hope to assemble a full feasibility study by the end of November.
Among the models to explore is a business improvement association, which has regained momentum among some merchants this year.
“I think the end goal is most of the people involved now have a sense we need to be able to promote ourselves better. What’s the best way to do that,” said McNeil-Smith. “There’s a sense we needed to come together anyway to reach our full potential.”
Sidney council on Monday unanimously approved $18,500 in funding for the study.
The Sidney Business Development Group has a board of seven members who stem from the Sidney Merchants Co-op.
The Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce is in support of the group’s endeavours for a feasibility study.
“The [Sidney Business Association] has a role in the community. What it does primarily is run our summer market,” McNeil-Smith said. “Unfortunately the SBA leadership has rebuffed our invitations [to be involved}. But the door’s always open.”