Williams Lake Central Business Improvement Association president Sheila Mortensen welcomed members of the business community at the annual general meeting held at Alley Katz on Thursday, Feb. 7.
Guest speakers were Mayor Kerry Cook and Kamloops Central BIA general manager and former Cariboo resident Gay Pooler. Also in attendance were City Councillor Geoff Bourdon, BIA and city liaison, and City Director of Economic Development Alan Madrigga.
Highlights from 2012 for the BIA included the Ladies Poker Run, the Stampede Street Party and Art Walk.
“We’re working on a different kind of Street Party for 2014. We also added ‘Alley Art’ and added two brand new murals that contribute to the beauty of the downtown core. We had some students come and work on the project, saving us about $2,000,” explained Mortensen.
The BIA is currently working on the downtown security camera project that has had some ups and downs, Martensen said.
“We found that, although we had super-deluxe cameras, the transmitter provides grainy footage.”
We’re looking at funding sources to upgrade to something that is clearer and more useable. We’re also looking at back alley lighting.”
“One of the goals is to have a public washroom in the downtown core. We also need banners: the current ones are aging.”
The ‘Turn Down the Heat’ program was a great success, according to Martensen who said that their bins were “overflowing” with donated sweaters and warm clothes to the Child Development Centre and Canadian Mental Health.
“There are 24 new businesses in the downtown core and that’s good news,” she added. “People have faith in this town and we’re not going off the rails on this one.”
Pooler is the daughter of Williams Lake resident Bruce Watt. She is the general manager of the Kamloops BIA, was in small business herself for 20 years, and said that she believes that a strong downtown core is the measure of a city.
Her presentation focused on people, places and management as key elements to a successful downtown core.
“This starts with people who care, contribute and focus on your downtown – people who have a passion for it,” she explained. “The people in your downtown core can have a difference of opinion and that’s OK; just don’t let it paralyze you.”
She said that a good downtown core is a neighbourhood and includes living spaces for people. “People place a premium on living within walking distance of their downtown. You want to attract residents with housing incentives; you need to make it a place where people want to live and a place that is good for your merchants, who are the front-line promoters of your city.”
Another important element for a successful downtown is making it attractive and appealing. “You need parking, public transit and attractions, and multi-use development is great,” she noted. “Street level attractions such as interactive storefronts are a necessity, and so are public squares and parks.”
She said that in Kamloops they have live music on the streets six days a week throughout the summer, and added that business use of public space is key to success. “Restaurants and cafes spilling out onto the streets is one way, and retail bringing merchandise onto the sidewalks is another,” she said. “It’s important to work closely with your city, your chamber of commerce and your non-profits.”
The Kamloops BIA doubles its levies with fundraising events and partnerships. “We work hard at business attraction and retention — your BIA needs to engage people, get them involved and inspire them to work together.”
She explained that Williams Lake has a head start on a lot of cities when it comes to branding. “You have a western brand that everyone knows about and you can build on your identity,” she continued, adding that great customer service is crucial to a strong downtown core. “It’s so important: you may be the only local people a visitor connects with and you want to make sure they go away with a positive attitude.”
“I look out here and see people who have made amazing differences in their community,” stated Mayor Kerry Cook. “Hats off to you – you are hit constantly for donations and you deliver. People don’t realize how much you contribute locally. You make such a huge difference in your community.”
She said that this year there is a real opportunity for businesses to come together and put forward their vision for improvement. “The City is looking for your ideas, your energy and your enthusiasm for ‘Embrace your Future,’ where you will present your ideas to council, impact a new bylaw and be part of shaping your future,” she explained, and noted that the deadline for the project is December 2013.
“We are committed to working with the BIA and believe that the downtown is the heart of the city,” she continued. “Seeing this crowd here tonight is encouraging. Thank you. This is the year, this is the time and you have the ability to shape the future.”
Nancy Gale gave a financial statement, Cook presented certificates to past BIA directors thanking them for their service, and members voted on amendments and new directors were voted in.
Judy O’Neill said that the new directors are Laura Bardell from Hub International Barton Insurance, Gale from Child Development Centre, property owner Jan Hermiston, Mortensen from Lake City Glass, Elaine Winslow from J & E Gifts, Angie Delainey from Satya Yoga, Mary Forbes from Dandelion Living, Brad Lawryk from Auroratec Business Solutions, Kim Judd from Blue Spoon Catering and Chris Barlow from Chuckwagon Concessions. Directors with one year remaining are Bob Sunner from Laketown Furnishings and Bruce Charbonneau from Framed Creations by Bruce.