Gravenhurst BIA border expansion cash grab or sound business investment?
GRAVENHURST — Struggling businesses in Gravenhurst are gob smacked over town council’s decision to impose a new tax on them.
The council agreed recently to allow the BIA to more than double their borders by expanding north and south on the main street and over to Bethune Drive and down one more block on Bay Street.
Coming out of one of the worst winters in memory, with soaring heating and gas prices that are threatening the livelihoods of more small businesses that face closure in a community severely devastated in recent years, many are surprised at the ill-timed move.
And at the duplication of potential services it will provide.
Is it a cash grab, a sound investment or will the newfound money be used more wisely than in the past?
Nowhere is there a business case – ironically, from business owners running the BIA - to proceed. Just what would more members allow the BIA to do?
Already, the Chamber of Commerce is representing many of those businesses in the newly defined area – which targets small businesses charging them fees by square footage — while conveniently ignoring big box stores at the south end of town and down at the Muskoka Wharf.
And one wonders why any business beyond the existing core would need or want to belong to an association whose raison d’etre is a more easily defined and manageable few blocks that can be best served by the existing GBIA configuration with more creative thought and investment.
Why would a sun tanning salon, auto parts supplier, optometrist, body shop or real estate office belong to a second business group that offers little more than a sidewalk sale and a few decorations to represent their interests.
It is a duplication of the Chamber of Commerce that in itself is supposed to be a champion of business, but too often also plays a more promotional than advocacy role.
It beggars the question: Is there room for two businesses associations in the small town?
Who can best serve the important needs of its members?
With far too many vacancies in the GBIA either group should step up.
In the one key GBIA block alone seven former storefronts are gone, one is hardly ever open and another is closing out. Fortunately five new businesses have started up at Bay and Brock. So there is hope.
Still, the Gravenhurst Business Improvement Area will be proceeding with the proposed GBIA boundary expansion, which mirrors the town’s approved Community Improvement Plan area.
The GBIA says in a news release that it began the process to expand just over a year ago, in March.
Chair Annette Gillan said: “The time is right to recognize the growth and move forward to connect the business community.”
She added “The GBIA’s membership needs to grow to represent the Downtown Business area and further the BIA mandate of marketing and beautifying the business community beyond the municipal commitment.”
And what is the town and its economic development department doing to bolster their efforts?
Precious little, it appears, beyond basic tax supported infrastructure, if one is to measure their recent reticence and foot dragging on a Internet infrastructure investment in its own buildings downtown.
The BIA says neighboring communities in Muskoka have addressed changes in their BIA’s and have all expanded, however the G.B.I.A. has not expanded in the 37 years since its inception, she said.
An invitation to a public meeting held February 19th was sent to all current and the proposed commercial properties within the proposed expansion area that included a brochure containing information on our objectives and the benefits to increasing our membership.
The next steps will be initiated by the Town of Gravenhurst Clerks department (outlined by the Municipal Act) who will be sending a notice to the current and proposed BIA members.
The GBIA welcomes questions and looks forward explaining what the proposed expansion could mean to your business and how you can become involved in setting the mandate and rates.
For more information call the BIA’s administrator Grace Urbanski at 687-9392 or go to the website at www.gravenhurstbia.com
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