Community and Business in Recovery
Who specifically can help business owners and who can help build back a thriving community? Between Organizations like Community Futures, Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement Associations (BIA’s) and the City or Township itself, there are many people at the ready to take this task on.
Communities in recovery
As if a pandemic was not enough strife for communities in BC to recover from, the summer of 2021 has been a fierce wildfire season.
From widespread alerts to mass evacuations, the devastating loss of the village of Lytton, as well as may other homes, it has been a tough summer in BC’s Interior.
Recovery will be a long and exhausting journey but working together we will get there eventually.
There will be many elements to recovery – here are 5 to consider:
- Rally the community – coming together and drawing strength from one another aids in the healing process.
- Finding funding and other support resources – this can be more difficult than it should be with multiple levels of government and the attendant bureaucracy. Organizations like Community Futures, Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement Associations (BIA’s) are good information sources to help.
- For businesses BIA’s can also act as facilitators for bringing together the business community for mutual support and to develop recovery strategies.
- Incorporate the principles of Destination Development in your long-term community plan. Dynamic places attract people and this in turn attracts new businesses and investment.
- Keep a positive outlook and don’t give up! Persistence pays off.
BIA’s role in community recovery efforts
For businesses struggling to recover from the pandemic and wildfires, Business Improvement Associations (BIA’s) can act as facilitators, bringing together the business community for mutual support and to develop recovery strategies.
BIA’s overall mandate is to create successful commercial districts, filled with thriving businesses. Some of the strategies to achieve this are:
- Advocating with governments.
- Facilitating business connections.
- Starting important conversations.
- Bringing businesses together and connecting to neighborhoods.
- Strategic planning and long-term community plans.
- Place Management of public spaces. Creating dynamic places that attract people. People attract businesses, which in turn attract investment in residential and commercial development.
BIA’s are the horizontal developers that attract and enable vertical development.
These are consistent strategies for BIA’s and are especially important during times of economic recovery, as we are striving for after this brutal pandemic and fierce wildfire year.
If your community does not currently have a Business Improvement Association, perhaps it is time to explore the idea.
Destination Development – what makes a place dynamic
Communities must be intentional in their Destination Development. It is essential for attracting residents, businesses, investment, and visitors. Identify your key selling proposition: what makes you unique? Then you can build on that, always keeping it as a focus in your development efforts.
Some of the important elements of what makes a place dynamic are:
- Beautification – esthetics matter. From first impressions to a lasting pride in community.
- Pedestrian friendly business district – people want to feel safe, comfortable and happy walking around. Wide sidewalks, well placed seating, pet friendly amenities.
- Connection between stores and public spaces – businesses utilizing the sidewalks creates a smooth connection and welcomes people in. Store displays, seating, patios, planters etc.
- Well-designed public spaces – central location, attractive, activated, social and safe.
- Activity – programming public spaces with events and activities is essential. It does not have to be a parade of huge events; small daily activities work very well. Street games like checkers, musicians playing, interactive mini classes or workshops – things to create the gathering of people.
- A good business mix – You want a variety of different types of businesses within your commercial district.
- An overall welcoming atmosphere – Ambassadors, tourist information and washrooms are a few elements to help create this.
Destination Development is a big undertaking but very worth it. Start by finding a group of community champions and consider getting outside help to kick start your community recovery.
Business attraction – does your community have the information businesses need?
A key element in the recovery or our communities will be to attract new residents, businesses, and investments. They all seek information – ensure that you have it and it is easy to find.
When a business is researching a town or business district within a city they study a wide variety of information.
Is this readily available for your town or district?
Economic Development organizations or City departments sometimes have this on a city wide scale, but not always, and rarely broken down by business district. There are some private companies that specialize in gathering this information for towns. Business Improvement Associations (BIA’s) often identify this as a priority in their mandate.
Some of the information required:
- Demographics – not just population but how it is broken down; age, income level, education and more.
- Traffic and pedestrian density on specific streets or neighborhoods.
- Commercial real estate available, approx. size range, quality, cost etc.
- Current business mix – to assess competition and complimentary businesses.
- Trading area information.
Municipalities, Economic Development organizations, tourism groups and BIA’s should all work together to gather and disseminate this information through a “State of the Town” style report.
Are you thinking of how you can help? One way is to join your local BIA or non-profit organization.
Joining a Board of Directors
Thinking of joining a Board of Directors of a Non-Profit to help your community?
Here are the top three questions you should ask:
- Can they supply you with organizational information? Such as a directors recruitment package and, if you join, a director’s manual.
- What are the expectations for Directors? Time commitment, meeting schedule, committees, etc.
- Does the organization carry Directors and Officers (D&O) insurance?
When choosing an organization to volunteer with look for one that is well-run and has a mandate and vision that matches your personal values. It is a great way to contribute to community building so go ahead and step up, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much you also get back out of the experience.
Grant writing tips
To enable community recovery there is a need for outside funding sources to support community efforts.
There is, or will be, money out there in the great blue yonder, we just have to find it!
This can often be much more difficult than it should be with multiple levels of government and the attendant bureaucracy.
A few tips I have picked up over the years include:
- Determine granting agency mandate – what do they want to support? Yours must match well with theirs, don’t try to put a round peg in a square hole. But also, do not change your mandate randomly – find the right grant for you.
- Time required vs reward potential – ensure that the application process and reporting requirements are not too onerous to warrant the potential funding money.
- Application assessment – find out how they will be scoring your application. Write your proposal in such a way that they can easily identify how you fulfill their requirements. The goal is for them to tick off their boxes with ease.
- Show that you have partners and supporters for your project.
- Consider hiring a grant writing specialist.
It will take many hands and hearts to ensure communities and their business owners will get back to where they were pre-pandemic.
For more information on workshops and training for your BIA or Non-Profit organization, contact me here.