I attended one of the Sidney Business Development Group’s presentations at the Sidney Hotel.
In previous years, I have heard the idea of a business improvement area (BIA) being discussed and I was against it primarily because I could see no direct benefits for my business. We are an accounting firm, not merchants, so in increase in tourist or Victoria-based foot traffic would not bring us any more business.
However, I have a different perspective now.
Over the past four of five years, I have seen a gradual decline in business for many of my existing clients and a number of newly-established clients have gone out of business.
My bad debt experience used to be maybe $500 a year and now it is closer to $10,000.
I have seen developments such as ones in Chemainus and Gastown and I assume that these were the result of concerted efforts by a BIA or similar organization. I would be interested in hearing about success stories, as well as failures, where this has been tried elsewhere.
I have seen Sidney develop more of a seaside and pedestrian-friendly theme over the years, with park benches, underground Hydro, a one-way street on Beacon Avenue, the seafront walkway and the street lights fixtures. I also remember what a struggle it was to implement this — many of the ideas came from mayors like Marie Rosko and Don Amos.
Yet, the merchants were deeply divided about issues such as the potential loss of parking on a one-way street.
I think this has been a great first step.
I can see an advantage of driving this forward through a BIA because it has no vested interest in the outcome, is completely non-political and it can cheerfully steal great ideas from other municipalities without being accused of plagiarism.
It needs to have real focus, as our politicians have to be concerned about a myriad of other issues such as sewers and street repairs.
Our merchants are more concerned about covering their next payroll.
This project is all about making Sidney as a whole a great place to visit and shop and dine out.
It would be nice to see a similar initiative for Brentwood — they have taken some first steps by installing crosswalks and widening pavements but there is no real sense of a central theme.
I do understand that this could potentially cost my firm around $750 a year but I would be willing to give it a try for three years to see what evolves.
I would also be interested in participating in the ongoing discussions.