Carp village BIA moving on from COVID
By Jake Davies - West Carleton Online
CARP – While the 2022 Village of Carp Business Improvement Area (BIA) held its annual general meeting online last week (Jan. 27), that was more due to the convenience of accommodating the business owners that make up the board, than a response to COVID-19.
But the shadow of COVID-19 still exists. And while Canada moves forward from the pandemic, many small businesses, those that survived, are now dealing with the fallout of two years of repeated forced closures and the lost revenue from that; record inflation making the cost of business higher than ever; a missing workforce; and the bills coming due for government loans that may have kept small businesses afloat during the pandemic, but did nothing to help owners grow their businesses or increase revenue.
Times are extremely tough in the small business world, and the Village of Carp BIA is made up almost entirely of small businesses.
The Village of Carp BIA is one of 19 in the City of Ottawa and one of two in West Carleton with the Carp Road Corridor BIA the other. City of Ottawa staff created the boundaries of the BIA districts. Landlords who own commercial property inside a BIA zone pay an additional levy on their tax, which is used by the volunteer BIA board of directors within the specific BIA to support business improvement and economic development within the BIA boundary.
All BIAs have a council representative, and the first bit of news Village of Carp BIA board chair Jen Stewart shared during the morning meeting was new Ward 5 Coun. Clarke Kelly is now a member of the BIA board.
Along with Stewart and Kelly, the BIA board is made up of treasurer Greg LeBlanc and directors Tara Azulay, Neil Falls, Lisa Kyte, Natalie Wilson and Devon Larock.
The BIA, recognizing the challenges of recovering from the pandemic, focused on promotion of the area during the 2022 year. The BIA invested in advertising and marketing promotions with West Carleton Online and the Ottawa Business Journal.
Its agreement with West Carleton Online involved advertising as well as content creation which included business profiles and photography throughout the year. Over the holiday season West Carleton Online ran a special series known as A Carp Christmas, focusing on the businesses in the area and what those owners love about the holiday season in West Carleton. The Ottawa Business Journal ran a six-part series on the Village of Carp in its pages.
“We tried to highlight all the businesses in Carp,” Stewart said.
The BIA also published its quarterly magazine the Carp Villager.
Another holiday project, in its third year, the BIA had success with was the Light Up the Village initiative. Last week West Carleton Online published a story on this year’s winner. The contest is a chance to encourage the village’s businesses and residents to put a little extra in to their holiday decorating. It seems to be working, turning the village in to a winter wonderland during the Christmas season.
“That was such a lovely drive,” Azulay said of the night the judges took a tour of the village.
In the last couple of years, the BIA erected two new Village of Carp signs. One can be found entering the village from the east on Donald B. Munro Dr. built at the start of fiscal 2022. The other on the way in from Carp Road on the west side.
“We’d like to put a third one, coming in from Kinburn,” Stewart said. “I think they look really good.”
The BIA also erected lamppost flags along the Carp Road through the village branded with the BIA’s familiar logo and matching the village signs.
Azulay spoke of another village initiative the Carp BIA is a part of along with several other Carp organizations. A proposed Carp Heritage Walk that will mark historically significant parts of the community in a self-guided tour of the village interested parties can take part in on foot or even virtually.
“This project continues,” Azulay said. “We’re working on finalizing the logo. This is a project that will span 2023 and 2024. We’re still waiting for the city to see if we can put up signage in the village.”
LeBlanc spoke BIA budget.
The treasurer gave a brief history of the BIA’s finances. Aside from 2021, the BIA has kept the total levy to $13,000 for “many, many years.”
In 2021, the BIA did not collect a levy in an effort to help Carp village businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2023, the BIA will keep the levy the same.
“We’ve maintained this budget for many, many years and have managed to do more and more in creative ways,” LeBlanc said.
That creativity will be evident in 2023, as the BIA looks to initiate, as well as bring back, a number of business improvement projects.
Some of the projects the BIA will look at initiating in 2023 include a Village of Carp Best in Business Awards; Evening Under the Stars; meet and greet; continued marketing, social media and media promotion; Memorial Hall revitalization; and the creation of a Remembrance Day organizing committee.
“The community evening under the stars would be a harvest style dinner,” Stewart said. “A great way to showcase the great food we have. It’s a big undertaking.”
BIA director Falls discussed the Memorial Hall revitalization.
“Give it a bit of a facelift,” he said. “Maybe a mural on the Donald B. Munro side. We hope to fund it through grants and donations.”
The BIA also intends to bring back an event that quickly grew in popularity before being hurt by COVID-19 – the West Carleton War Memorial Remembrance Day service.
The last full service was held in 2019 and attracted well more than 2,000 people.
The event moved online in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID concerns. In 2022, the original organizers, the West Carleton War Memorial committee felt they couldn’t properly put one together although a couple of the community’s religious leaders did host a last-minute surprise service.
But the BIA wants to ensure the important Remembrance Day service carries on at the beautiful and symbolic memorial.
Falls will be joined by Stuart Hodge (a member of the West Carleton War Memorial committee) and Ottawa Valley Grain Products owner Kevin Stewart will work together to keep the service going.
“A bit of a committee,” Falls said. “Set up, tear down and management of applications and permits. Make sure we keep this event alive and well.”
As the meeting wrapped up, Stewart congratulated the board for working through two unprecedented years during a time when bricks and mortar businesses faced incredible challenges.
“This committee is really scrappy and nimble,” she said.
“Thank you for a terrific year and a better one ahead,” LeBlanc said. “We are hopeful.”