Ted Williamson owns the Barry’s Bay V&S Stedmans (store pictured above). He is also the chairperson of the Barry’s Bay Business Improvement Area (BIA). Actually, four years ago, he urged other business owners in Barry’s Bay to work together and form the BIA.
Williamson who had already been in the Bay for twelve years at that point explains that when you come to a new community,
You have to wait a few years to establish your credentials. You have to listen and observe before you can make proposals.
Williamson had previously been a member, and served on the boards of management, of BIAs in Amherstburg, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Huntsville before coming to Barry’s Bay.
Once he had a few interested business people, the first thing they had to do was identify the geographic area in the village that had the highest concentration of businesses. Then they communicated by letter with the businesses contained within those limits seeking their approval to establish a BIA. If 40 percent of the businesses had not approved, then they would have given up. Not one business that was approached rejected the idea, so the Barry’s Bay BIA was born. Currently, there are 44 members in the BIA and it is guided by the board of management which consists of Williamson, the chairperson, and five other members: Neil O’Reilly, Gerard O’Malley, Derek Yuill, Debbie Marshall and Valerie Manion. Williamson says he works with a great team:
These folks are excellent to work with because they have energy, vision and they put this into action. Because of this, Neil O’Reilly thinks we should call it “Business in Action.”
Williamson explains how the BIA works.
Effectively we tax ourselves. We set the rate and the municipality collects the levy and holds the money in a BIA account. When we complete the projects we have budgeted for, we submit the invoices to the township, and they pay them with our money.
BIA regulations stipulate that the money raised can only be used for the improvement and beautification of the community on publicly owned property; not on the properties of individual businesses.
Williamson submitted the BIA’s 2018 budget to the Township of Madawaska Valley on March 13. Projects for this year include:
- baskets and planters in the downtown area
- support for Bay Day (May 19)
- support for Heritage Walks for this summer highlighting heritage businesses
- the creation of a village information map for visitors
- sponsoring events on Friday and Saturday of the August Civic holiday
- co-operating with the Greening Committee and Communities in Bloom
- An important addition in this budget is a proposal for new Christmas lighting for the downtown core.
Williamson is emphatic:
The work of the BIA is a tremendous vehicle for the beautification of the community, and that makes us more desirable to visit.
Many people in the community are starting to think about October’s municipal elections. Williamson and his peers in the BIA are no different, but the BIA is not a political group. The BIA wants what is best for everyone in the community and sees the municipality as its most important partner. Williamson suggested that everyone needs to focus on co-operation; co-operation in regards to the Railway Station and co-operation in general:
Co-operation in regards to the Railway Station is essential because it is a
focal point for our community. It is a beautiful building and it is accessed
easily by visitors. That’s where they get a taste of what we are all about in
terms of culture, recreation and business.
The board of management of the BIA gets along very well considering
that some of us are retail competitors. Yet we can sit down, work together
amicably and achieve things for the greater good. I wish more people would
follow our example.
Ultimately, Ted Williamson sees himself and other business people in the BIA as public relations ambassadors for the community, a role which comes naturally to people who are trying to maintain successful businesses. Williamson comments on his personal approach.
I can call my customers by name. That’s how you get to know your community and, from a business point of view, how you get repeat customers. And in a community this size, we need repeat customers.
The same is true for the larger community. By beautifying and improving the business district, the BIA is making citizens and visitors alike feel welcome, appreciated and likely to return.