Members give full support to BIAs plans for downtown

The Business Improvement Area here has received approval for its future plans for downtown Fergus at its annual general meeting on Oct. 19.

Approximately 30 business owners and politicians attended the meeting in Stone Gable Hall to learn about what the new BIA board of directors has accomplished since last year. They were also given the opportunity to comment on plans and they approved the budget proposed by the board.

“We were pleased with the feedback and ideas discussed throughout the meeting,” said Fergus BIA chairman Jackie Fraser.

“The membership gave us a clear mandate to stay the course and continue our focus on downtown beautification projects.”

One project it is working on is “lighting the falls” using a multicoloured lighting unit mounted under the Milligan footbridge, shining coloured lighting upstream to the rapids and downstream to Templin Gardens and the grotto. A test has been completed and the BIA is currently arranging funding.

The BIA has also been busy this past year replacing banners and hardware, installing picnic tables at the falls outlook, designing directional signs for downtown, and working on new Christmas décor. It has engaged a landscape architectural firm to design plans for the area along the north side of the Grand River between Tower Street and St. David Street.

Proposed design concepts will be presented to BIA members and the public for feedback in the new year. 

Downtown Fergus has hosted a variety of new and traditional events downtown such as the highly successful fall Classic Car Show, the Scottish Festival and Highland Games movie night, Easter Saturday’s Hippity Hop, Riverwalk, and the Christmas Tree Lighting, to name a few.

“Last year there was concern that with no budget specifically allocated to events they would not continue,” said Fraser.

“However members have rallied behind these events and made them happen, with minimal need for financial contributions from the BIA.

The board has proposed a grant program to help downtown businesses install attractive signs or otherwise rejuvenate their facades.

“This is a new approach to enhancing the look of our downtown,” said BIA treasurer, George Mochrie.  “It’s a great way to help our members with projects that will improve the look of our downtown, while getting great value for our limited BIA budget.”

The grant program will be rolled out in the second quarter of 2012.

In 2010, the BIA was transformed to an all-volunteer board. As a result, the proportion of its budget spent on wages and administration decreased from 74% to less than 15%, which has increased the amount of working capital for beautification projects.

The Fergus BIA is a volunteer board of downtown property owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals passionate about the future of downtown Fergus.

It derives 100% of its income from special tax levies that downtown property owners pay in addition to regular property taxes.