Blyth BIA ends 2022 with surplus, looks ahead to 2023
BY SCOTT STEPHENSON
After a winter storm prevented the Blyth Business Improvement Area (BIA) from holding its already-delayed Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Feb. 23, the group was again locked out of familiar meeting space in the arena for the BIA’s third swing at an AGM on March 2. The scrappy organization regrouped and found refuge at the Trinity Anglican Church on Dinsley Street. The church’s brightly lit hall space, graciously provided by the BIA’s interim Treasurer Rev. JoAnn Todd, offered a fresh setting for collaboration with North Huron Economic Development Officer, Demetri Makrakos, visiting the BIA again after a contentious appearance at last month’s meeting.
The expeditiously set up folding tables accommodated notebooks and laptop computers, punctuated by an even smattering of reusable coffee mugs and disposable cups from Tim Hortons, as well as one homemade berry smoothie.
The mood in the room was noticeably more jovial than the previous meeting, which was one that saw friction between BIA Chair David Sparling and Makrakos. In that meeting, the two exchanged words over potential changes to the BIA’s constitution. Previous communication barriers appear to have been addressed, though Sparling said he continues to be plagued by computer problems.
Sparling thanked impromptu AGM host, Rev. Todd, and suggested the space may be required to house future BIA meetings in the event of an extended closure at the arena. Rev. Todd welcomed the possibility of hosting further meetings and explained the church has actively improved hospitable elements to increase the venue’s appeal as a rental space for community groups and event hosts. The church boasts a recently renovated, fully-accessible bathroom, a fully-equipped kitchen, enhanced acoustics in the sanctuary, and padded chairs that have replaced traditional pews to offer more comfort and increased versatility in the use of floorspace. Interested parties are encouraged to e-mail email@example.com to inquire further about rental availability.
“Just to let you know, our financial status is actually pretty good,” began Rev. Todd on the topic of the BIAs finances, “We ended 2022 with a surplus of $5,353.43.” Sparling said the BIA intends to devote some or all of the surplus toward the urgent priority of refurbishing downtown Blyth’s languishing collection of Christmas decorations.
Rev. Todd says auditing of the BIA’s financial records is complete after she was forced to scramble through the process due to the last-minute resignation of the BIA’s previous treasurer.
“There is room for stuff to happen this year,” Rev. Todd indicated optimistically and concluded the report by telling assembled tablemates that a January, 2023 bank statement indicates the BIA is working with $13,988.30 to start the year.
Sparling thanked the stoic Rev. Todd once again, and admitted the task of handling the BIA’s finances was a lot more challenging than he had originally considered.
Makrakos provided updates and further explanations about the proposed changes to the BIA constitution. The Economic Development Officer, measured and clear in his presentation, built a consensus in the room in support of standardizing the format of the respective Wingham and Blyth BIA constitutions, solidifying the structure of sub-committees, and clarifying the BIA’s ability to use associate members on its board of directors.
A discussion about possible changes to the BIA’s borderlines and membership ranks resulted in no change. Sparling proposed casting a wider geographic net to include more businesses, suggesting the membership levy is a small investment to unlock funding and opportunities that might not be available to non-members. Makrakos clarified the purpose of a BIA is not for membership to gain additional income streams, but rather to collectively focus on a specific area to cultivate an environment that is advantageous for business to take place. “Instead of calling them Business Improvement Areas, it would be better to call them Business Area Improvement,” explained Makrakos.
Several nominations were accepted, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, for the new term of the BIA board, including Shane Yerema, Cat O’Donnell, Cindy Soares, Angela Cullen, John Stewart, Rev. Todd, Blyth Festival General Manager Rachael King, Sparling, and the council appointee Deputy-Reeve Kevin Falconer. Rev. Todd, King and Stewart expressed a reluctant willingness to resume their roles on the board of management for another term, while Sparling has decided to bow out as the chair.