Supporting local businesses

You may have noticed that downtown Hamilton has been changing a lot lately. Shiny new businesses are rolling in, historical buildings are being restored, and parks are being spruced up. Many would say that these changes make Hamilton`s downtown more welcoming. Many would also disagree. Regardless of opinion, it is clear that there must be some greater force at work than simple market economics. Someone or something has been actively working towards increasing business opportunities in the downtown core. Well, if that’s what you were thinking, you’re not wrong! Downtown Hamilton is a perfect example of a Business Improvement Area in Hamilton – an organization that facilitates a network for local businesses and property owners to organize, finance and promote economic development in their district, with the support of the municipality.

There are 13 Business Improvement Areas (or BIAs) scattered across Hamilton, all of which have been established through a municipal By-law and are governed under The Municipal Act, 2001.

The Business Improvement Area has a two-fold mandate:

  • To improve, beautify and maintain public lands and buildings within the BIA, beyond that which is provided by the municipality at large and
  • To promote the area as a business and shopping area.

The BIA boasts benefits such as improved atmosphere, increased value for property owners, increased community interest, improved communication between business and municipal council, and cost savings through improved allocation of funding and promotional activities. Investing in Hamilton’s businesses leads to economic growth and thus an average increase in standard of living.

Of course, some may also question what kind of impact a BIA might have on the communities that already occupy the area. For example, do the new businesses appeal to the culture that already exists in that community or are they drawing in alternative crowds to spend money? How affordable are rent prices and property taxes for local populations when property values increase? Who’s neighbourhood is being altered and do they want it to change?

All of the above are worthwhile considerations, and it really comes down to balancing the needs of each local community with the needs of the city as a whole. However, there is no doubt that BIAs are helping to open up opportunities and support local businesses, thus changing the face of our neighbourhoods.

Curious about what our BIAs look like? If the above fun map wasn’t interactive enough for you, check out this video for a live tour of Hamilton’s BIAs: