Reason for optimism in Kimberley

A move to revive the Business Improvement Area is underway

Kimberley City Councillor Don McCormick

Kimberley City Councillor Don McCormick

Kimberley’s Downtown Business Association got together for a meeting earlier in December, and it appears there is movement towards a revival of the Business Improvement Area (BIA).

Coun. Don McCormick, who is the City’s representative on the Chamber of Commerce Board, says a lot has happened since the group met last April, and that there is real reason for optimism in the business community.

“We’ve got a vibrant retail industry downtown,” McCormick said. “We’re coming off a good summer and with the early snow, most are feeling good about the winter.”

Despite the loss of KIOTAC, which was a concern going into the summer of 2013, McCormick says most businesses had a better year.

“That’s pretty spectacular when you think about it.”

There has been a lot happening in the downtown business community.

“Over the summer, since April there have been five businesses sold, nine new businesses opened, one closed, one under construction and four moved. At the end of the day, that’s 20 transactions, with 19 of them positive. When you consider there are only 70 businesses in the downtown area, that’s huge. I think it’s fantastic.”

He says that since last April when downtown businesses first met, a group of about a dozen business owners stepped forward to start taking stock of the business environment downtown and brainstorm ideas for improvement.

“A lot of hours were put in to come up with a raw list to improve the business experience downtown,” McCormick said, adding that downtown is not just the Platzl, where there are about 40 businesses, but the entire downtown which includes some 70 businesses.

“They came up with a list of well over 100 things which was consolidated into 80. The next step is to sit down with the City’s Economic Development and the CAO and walk through the list and prioritize. What can the City do, and what can the Chamber do?”

McCormick says the ideas are both big and small, such as a better plan for Platzl snow removal to the possibility of outdoor heaters to promote people spending more time outdoors in the Platzl to sprucing up the access tunnel from the Platzl parking lot with artwork and promotional materials.

“Last spring we were coming off a pretty mediocre summer and winter but this year, with a better business climate, and the success of things like First Saturdays, the feeling is different. There’s nothing wrong with the Platzl, we just need events to bring people in.”

The bottom line is that events and promotion cost money and this is where the idea of a BIA comes in.

“I brought up the BIA at the meeting,” McCormick. “It’s been more than 10 years since it was in place and it provided about $30,000 in marketing money. If we had $30,000 to spend we could do a lot.”

McCormick says the reception to the BIA idea was not as negative as he might have thought.

“I was expecting a little push back but people were receptive. I’m not saying all 70 businesses will jump in, but the reception was one of wanting to listen.”

What has come out of the meeting is that five business owners from downtown have committed to be part of the leadership committee of the Downtown Business Association.

“They will talk to downtown businesses about the BIA,” McCormick said. “I think the mood is right now to revisit it and I’d like to see it happen as soon as possible. Downtown businesses can expect to someone to be talking to them in the new year.

“The mood in the retail area is very positive right now. The key is to get funds in place to bring more people in. There’s lots of work to do, but these are exciting times.”