Your BIA is looking forward to 2022

By Al Ruggero

Recently, the Emery Village Business Improvement Area held its Annual General Meeting, online of course, where members were invited to participate, learn and pose questions about activities, projects and programs over the past year. This included the budget breakdown and a look into the plans for this upcoming year.

As an agency of the City of Toronto representing business ratepayers, and like most other BIAs coping within the pandemic environment, the BIA became a conduit for members to connect with the various organs of government. Primarily we listened and responded to calls from our members and brought forward their concerns.

We were in frequent contact with our elected representatives’ offices, health officials and service providers. When the time came to ease out of the lockdown, we responded by providing online Certified Covid Safety training to our members and their employees, a first in the city among Toronto’s BIAs. In the prior year, when access to PPEs were foremost on people’s minds, the BIA put together a resource directory for suppliers including many located within our BIA. It’s with pride, that we can report that many of our businesses responded quickly in ramping up production of PPEs when the shortages first became apparent.

As part of a wider network of BIAs throughout the city under the auspices of TABIA (Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas) our Executive Director participated in wide ranging meetings that came up with recommendations, needs assessments and proposals that were later presented to government to make them aware of the many facets of the economic crisis that befell our employers.

In many cases, and to their credit, the city, province and the federal government responded in the form of funding grants, programs and tax relief measures to keep enterprise and business afloat. Omicron informs us that we are not out of the woods yet and much remains to be done to restore confidence in the economy. At least, we could all breathe a partial sigh of relief that the recovery is now showing signs of strengthening.

Looking forward, the BIA is working on opportunities to resume our capital improvement projects in effort to create new and attractive community places, spaces and streets.

COVID-19 has intensified the transition toward technology in communication and marketing. As more and more people became isolated from their community and social life, they turned to social media and online communication. People are increasingly reliant and growing comfortable with their online presence and skills.

The social isolation trend is not lost on our businesses. The pandemic had many small business operators adopting digital technology for their workplaces and operations to better connect with their customers and broaden their marketing base.

This year, we plan to augment our programs for members to “get on board” (literally known as Onboarding) with Digital Main Street -- a successful program free to BIA members that provides them with a Digital Assessment and identifies technologies and tools that can help them meet their digital goals. All this and exclusive discounts from digital vendors.

The City along with TABIA worked with various founding partners including Google, MasterCard, Rogers, Microsoft and Shopify to create Digital Main Street in order to help our small businesses succeed in the digital age.

No time is better than now for businesses to look to the future with the technology and services needed to succeed in 2022.

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Al Ruggero is the Project Manager at Emery Village BIA.

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