CARP – 2020 was a year where the Village of Carp Business Improvement Area (BIA) pivoted fast and changed its focus to supporting its member businesses during the challenging times brought on by the economic fallout of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Board members and the media gathered for an annual general meeting held virtually on Zoom, as is the style of the day last Friday, Jn. 22.
“We are going to make the best of it,” BIA chair Jennifer Stewart told the attendees during the meeting. “We’re hoping to be quite efficient this morning.”
2020 was a strange year for the BIA and the businesses of the Village of Carp. The BIA put all its focus in to supporting its businesses during a time of lockdowns, COVID-19 restrictions and uncertainty. The BIA put money behind that support forgoing the 2020 levy that makes up the BIA budget. By City of Ottawa bylaw, any business or property owner residing in one of the 18 designated BIAs pays a levy through municipal taxes which is earmarked for the member’s respective BIA.
For the Village of Carp BIA, that works out to roughly $13,000. The BIA board chose to not accept a levy in 2020, allowing member businesses to keep that money in their pocket for the challenges ahead.
“We unanimously chose to forego the levy this year,” Stewart said. “It’s a very different year for our businesses this year. So, we’ve been running without a budget this year and worked on sweat equity and volunteerism.”
Even without a budget, the BIA accomplished a lot. It published 500 copies of its print magazine The Carp Villager last May. The magazine focused on the community’s restaurants as eateries have been hit hard by the numerous lockdowns as a result of the pandemic. The BIA also forged ahead with a marketing partnership with West Carleton Online.
“Every bit of publicity we can get, certainly the better,” Stewart said.
The BIA also continued its partnership with Fan Saves – an online couponing service.
The BIA also spent time lobbying for its members interests.
“We participated in the Ontario budget consultations,” Stewart said. “We advocated for rent relief, reduction of hydro rates and accessible high-speed Internet.”
BIA board member Neil Falls also discussed the BIA’s Light up the Village Christmas campaign.
“It was a creative idea to stir up moral and create some business in our community,” he said. “I was blown away, flabbergasted by the participation. It was really, really impressive to see.”
The BIA also applied for city funding for new signage for the community “to enhance the look of our entrance and promote all the great things going on in our village,” Stewart said.
Stewart said, despite the hardship, members are hanging tough through the province’s second lockdown this year due to the pandemic.
“So far, our businesses are maintaining and staying strong,” Stewart said.
So are the BIA’s finances despite losing its main source of revenue in 2020 – the levy. Treasurer Greg LeBlanc says the BIA will accept the $13,000 levy in 2021.
“We did dip in to our reserves,” he said.
LeBlanc said there was about $10,000 in reserves to start 2020.
“We made a little budget of about $3,000,” he said. “We spent roughly $4,500. A lot of that was fixed costs. It’s amazing what we accomplished with little or no money. I think there’s a lot we can do. You see what we can do with very little money.”
The BIA will hash out a more detailed budget once the levy is collected.
We will continue to support local,” Stewart said. “We’ll be realistic, but optimistic.”
While attendees to the AGM was mostly made up of BIA board members and the media, two other guests with close connections to the Carp community were also in attendance.
Huntley Community Association (HCA) President Judy Makin and Carp Road Corridor BIA executive director Roddy Bolivar also attended.
“The HCA would like to work more closely with the BIA,” Makin said. “As we have so many shared interests and concerns.”
Bolivar seconded the comment saying he would like to do the same with the corridor BIA.
“Here’s to a much brighter 2021 for all of us,” Carp village BIA board member Tara Azulay said.