Waterdown BIA’s executive director Susan Pennie and BIA chair Dr. Derrick Thornborrow discuss the 2018 strategic plan during the business group’s annual general meeting last Tuesday (Nov. 28) at Memorial Hall. Nov. 28, 2017 – Dianne Cornish photo
Growing pedestrian traffic in the downtown core while focusing on streetscape beautification, marketing and promotion will remain key priorities of the Waterdown Business Improvement Area as it moves into 2018.
That was the message delivered by the business group’s board of management and executive director Susan Pennie at its annual general meeting Nov. 28 at Waterdown’s Memorial Hall.
Members approved a budget of $322,750 for the coming year, with the bulk of the money going to administration and operations ($123,400 or 38 per cent), beautification ($76,000 or 24 per cent), marketing and advertising ($59,425 or 18 per cent) and the Farmers’ Market ($35,125 or 11 per cent). Other costs include the running of events and promotions ($23,800 or seven per cent) and member engagement ($5,000 or two per cent).
While the 2018 budget shows a $92,750 or 32 per cent increase over last year’s budget of $230,000, it actually represents a smaller increase of $30,725 over 2017’s projected costs of $292,025. Pennie said some one-time costs and additional programs account for the additional expenses, which were taken on because of “a healthy revenue stream” enjoyed by the BIA this past year due to grants and vendors’ fees from the Farmers’ Market.
In his report to the board and to about 15 business owners at last week’s meeting, BIA treasurer Gary Titley noted that at the end of December 2016, the group had $96,880 in cash which together with investments, grants and other income resulted in an accumulated surplus of $328,728 at the end of last year. He said the Waterdown BIA has “a strong financial footing to augment its marketing efforts for the next 10 years.”
The budget also calls for a four per cent increase in levies paid by the BIA’s 250-plus members to the City of Hamilton to support the promotion and improvement of the downtown business core. The increase will result in tax levy revenues rising from $230,000 to $240,000 next year.
City council must approve the new budget before it comes into effect in January 2018.
BIA chair Dr. Derrick Thornborrow convened the meeting, which also featured reports from Farmers’ Market manager Thalia Dyer and BIA vice-chair Sherine Mansour, who is also chair of the group’s marketing committee.
Pennie, hired as executive director last October, summarized the BIA’s strategic plan for the coming year, noting the board will “build on the momentum started in 2017,” with a focusing on the four strategies of beautification, promotion, marketing and membership engagement. She and Mansour both spoke about a major overhaul of the BIA website in 2018. “We want to make it more secure and more mobile responsive,” Mansour said, while also noting that the group’s social media sites, Facebook and Instagram, have seen increased traffic in recent months.
New video content will be added to the website and a part-time administrative worker will be hired to help with BIA promotions, events and social media.
Increasing membership participation in BIA activities will be a major focus next year. Although a marketing committee, composed of BIA members, is up and running, Pennie would like to see similar committees to help with beautification and BIA promotions, such as the Farmers’ Market, Movies in the Park and holiday events. Dyer said she would like to see more membership involvement in the Farmers’ Market, which will be entering its fifth season in May 2018. The 2017 market attracted 25 full-season vendors, 14 half-season and 12 new vendors, serving about 900 people per market. Next year, Dyer wants to make the event more interactive, with increased participation from local businesses and vendors.
Waterdown businessperson Geoff Kulawick, co-owner of True North Records and True North Gallery, spoke to members about plans “to grow the future footprint” of ArtsFest in the downtown core to accommodate a second stage and more vendors. His plans include closing Dundas Street between Mill and Main streets on Aug. 18 and 19 next year, but before going for city council approval, he wants feedback from all affected businesses along the street.
Councillor Judi Partridge, who represents the city on the local BIA, said closing any street represents challenges and involves participation from several city departments, including planning, fire and police. She recommended that consent be sought from every affected business owner and they be asked to sign a petition or letter stating their position at least six months before asking council’s approval.
Kulawick pledged to reach out to every affected business. Mill and Main streets north will remain open to allow traffic to seek alternate routes during the free cultural festival, he noted.
The purpose of expanding the festival’s footprint is to make it “a world-class event,” attracting audiences of 50,000 to 100,000, the festival organizer explained. The 2017 event, headlined by Lunch at Allens, The Good Brothers, Canadian Brass, Natalie MacMaster and several other well-known musical entertainers, attracted large audiences, with many visitors coming from communities well outside of Waterdown.
A couple of business owners at the annual meeting spoke in favour of closing the small section of Dundas Street for the festival, but two others expressed concerns over the rerouting of traffic.