CRCBIA talks growth amidst COVID-19

CARP – About 41 stakeholders took part in yesterday’s (Jan. 19) Carp Road Corridor Business Improvement Area’s (CRCCBIA) annual general meeting and heard stories of growth despite a global economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CRCBIA is one of 18 BIAs in the City of Ottawa.

COVID-19 also prevented the meeting from being held in person as it usually is at the Irish Hills Golf and Country Club, a CRCBIA member. The event is normally an early morning gathering with breakfast and guest speakers. This year, like most gatherings in 2021, the AGM was held virtually.

Mayor Jim Watson, Coun. Eli El-Chantiry and Coun. Scott Moffatt joined the CRCBIA members for the roughly hour-and-a-half long meeting.

“I’m very, very impressed with the growth of the CRCBIA,” Watson said. “It’s quite remarkable growth. Obviously, 2020 was a very tough year for the world. I’m very proud of the fact all our rural councillors have a leadership role. Roddy (Bolivar, the CRCBIA executive director) has been a very active member of the BIA group.”

A screengrab of Mayor Jim Watson at the CRCBIA AGM.
Mayor Jim Watson was a special guest of the CRCBIA AGM held Jan. 19. Screengrab

The meeting was led by Bolivar who shared some of the details of that growth.

The CRCBIA, also known as Ottawa’s largest light industry business park, hosts about 5,400 employees working at around 300 businesses. The park boasts about a nine per cent increase in employee growth since 2004. Bolivar says the park would be at approximately 8,000 employees at “full build.”

Following remarks from the two councillors, Bolivar took the attendees through the year that was.

Bolivar says the CRCBIA undertook a “significant effort” to participate and provide input as city staff and politicians work on re-writing the city’s Official Plan – the first major revision since amalgamation in 2000.

That work involved meeting with councillors and staff; attending public meetings; and presenting to city committees. The CRCBIA worked on education campaigns to “promote a better understanding of rural light industry.”

One of the most important jobs the CRCBIA worked on was advocating for the need for the city to provide water service to the Carp Road corridor.

The CRCBIA also worked on drainage improvements; forwarding road and traffic safety concerns; and holding a COVID-19 safety education campaign.

For 2021 the CRCBIA has set some priorities for its work plan.

The CRCBIA will continue to lobby for water service by preparing statistical data on the economic benefits based on the new Official Plan policy.

“We have the biggest stock of land already zoned for light industry in all of Ottawa,” Bolivar said. “We have 20 per cent of Ottawa’s entire stock. Servicing the corridor, all the benefits, new businesses, new employees it will bring.”

One of the most notable changes under the new Official Plan is the expansion of the urban boundary approved last May.

“The expansion of the urban boundary is good news/bad news for the CRCBIA,” Bolivar said.

The good is it will bring OC Transpo service to Reed Park. Bolivar hopes to encourage city to bring the bus to all the Carp Road corridor – another item the CRCBIA executive director says would be a boon to employees and businesses within the CRCBIA. So another 2021 priority will be to get the CRCBIA’s recent transportation study to the city’s Transportation Mast Plan team.

“We did a big study on transportation in the corridor and collected our own data,” Bolivar said.

The third priority will be working with the city on area flooding and lobbying for improved ditch maintenance to reduce the risk.

“Manufacturing in Ottawa is alive and well,” Bolivar concluded.

The AGM is always a time to approve the new year’s budget. The CRCBIA board proposed the same assessment as the previous year, but will draw from its healthy reserves to, in part, pay for the “study of the economic benefit of water in the corridor in accordance with the new Official Plan policies for servicing to promote economic development.”

The CRCBIA also expect to spend on area promotion and the organization’s website – tools that contribute to business recovery as the city turns the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CRCBIA proposed a 2021 budget of $154,700 – roughly $23,000 more than 2020. The tax levy is remaining at $125,000 with $25,700 taken from reserves and $4,000 raised from the CRCBIA’s annual golf tournament.

“Because we’re budgeting higher expenses, we are drawing from reserves,” CRCBIA treasurer, Kanata Tax Service’s Sandra Cain, said.

The CRCBIA had a huge surplus following 2020, around $39,052.

“We were unable to do everything we budgeted for in 2020 due to COVID-19,” Cain said.