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What is a BIA?

A Business Improvement Area, also known as a BIA, is a voluntary area of a Municipality which is designated to allow business and commercial property owners authority to work with government to organize, finance, and carry out beautification, structural improvements, and economic development within specific borders.

The BIA is managed by volunteers who decide on a strategy to improve and grow the commercial area within its boundaries. Aside from our general membership, the board is an elected group of volunteers who meet at least monthly to steer projects. These board members are chosen from among the commercial property owners in the designated area. The Board also has several committees which work with the board. Many committee members are members of the public who wish to help grow the community.

The businesses and the commercial property owners within the BIA vote at an Annual General Meeting (AGM) on the goals, objectives, and budget for the organization for the following year. Once a budget has been decided, the Municipality collects a levy on behalf of the BIA from all commercial properties. It is important to note that the operating budget for the BIA does not come out of general taxes. The money is chosen and collected through businesses with the sole intention of creating a better environment in the region it is collected.

Aside from an operating budget, BIAs will often apply for funding from grants and other government projects. This supplementary income always goes to specific projects planned and designated by the board.

Common BIA projects

  • Beautification
  • Maintenance
  • Safety and security
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Special events
  • Business and community advocacy
  • Strategic planning
  • Business recruitment

It’s important to note that different boards will choose priorities based on their needs and budget and not all of these will be represented by every BIA.

Although BIAs have a responsibility to the businesses which set and approve their budgets, often, BIA boards will attempt to reach out to the local community to create a sense of shared ownership of this important public space. It is important to foster local economic development and revitalization through physical improvements as well as creating a sense of welcome and ambiance to attract people to come, shop, rest, and play. It is always the goal to build and maintain a vibrant and welcoming space for people and businesses to thrive.

The Wallaceburg BIA

The Downtown Wallaceburg BIA consists of the traditional shopping area from Dufferin Ave. to the Dundas bridge along James St. and Wellington.

For many years, a large portion of the budget of the Wallaceburg BIA has been spent on beautification. Every year, flowers and decorative plants are planted in gardens, hanging baskets, and planters which are paid for by our members. Each summer, students are hired to help maintain these gardens to keep the downtown as inviting as possible. Our biggest additions to the downtown gardens have included new gardens and place signs at the Cecile Bechard Civic Square Park and the corner of Wellington and Nelson, and the long garden along Wellington adjacent to the SaveMax Liquidation Centre.

Additional funds are spent on decorations. Lights and other ornaments are placed in the downtown core for Christmas. When the budget was set for 2023, a new committee was approved and formed which will substantially increase our Christmas decorations this year. We are looking to partner with volunteers from the community who are willing to help build a unique, winter oasis in downtown Wallaceburg every year.

We work with our local radio station and newspapers to help promote the entire downtown. At Christmas, every year, we host a popular open house. Most of our businesses are open into the night with goodies and deals to share with everyone. Craft and food vendors line the street. Every year is different. It is always a great opportunity to bring the little ones down for their first visit with Santa for the year.

During the summer, the BIA farmer’s market committee hosts a farmer’s market in parking lot ‘D’ downtown. This has been a popular attraction which sometimes attracts more than 1000 people to buy fresh produce and baked goods. The market runs on Saturday mornings from June until October every other week.

The Downtown Wallaceburg BIA also works with local government and law enforcement to find solutions to all concerns of our members. We advocate so that businesses, customers, and visitors can feel safe and comfortable while spending time downtown.

The Downtown Wallaceburg BIA has worked with many organizations and projects over the years. We have reviewed infrastructure, we are currently working to develop a long term plan for the area. Aside from our larger plan, the BIA approved a new committee last year to revisit the docks and boardwalk so that we can work with the Municipality to improve the use and attraction of this space.

The BIA supplies resources and information to potential new business and have partnered with both landlords and businesses to try to find matches which help everyone. We are always involved in Municipal issues such as the redevelopment of the south side, the repair of the walking bridge, or maintenance of the municipal water supply since it affects us all. We have worked with the Sydenham Challenge, the bike rodeo, Downtown Wallaceburg Rocks, the Wallaceburg Christmas Parade, the zombie walk, Vision2020, and Grand Olde Days, to name a few. We continue to strive to improve the downtown as much as possible. We are only restricted by our budget and the number of volunteers we have.

Our History

The town of Wallaceburg, Ontario has a rich history, dating back to the early 19th century. Named after Scotland’s national hero, Sir William Wallace, Wallaceburg was first settled by farmers and peasants from Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland.

They arrived in 1804 and established the Baldoon Settlement along the Snye River.  Although the settlers faced many difficulties such as malaria, harsh winters, and American invaders during the War of 1812, they persevered and contributed to the early success and development of the town. One of the town’s earliest major industries was the lumber trade, which was highly successful during the mid to late 19th century.

The Wallaceburg Cooperage Company, opened by David Alexander Gordon and his uncle Captain James Steinhoff in 1887, was one of the most notable businesses to develop during this era. However, as the supply of hardwood declined, industrialists had to find new business ideas to sustain the local economy. That’s when the glassmaking industry came to Wallaceburg in 1894. The Sydenham Glass Company was established and the industry lasted over 100 years, before closing in 1999. The Canadian and Dominion Sugar Company, which produced raw sugar from sugar beets, was also a notable industry in the town. It opened in 1901 and closed in 1960. The Wallaceburg Brass Company was the third major industry in the town, opening in 1905 and creating brass faucets and plumbing supplies.

The company later merged with Kindred Industries and was known thereafter as Waltec. The factory stopped manufacturing in Wallaceburg as late as 2006. But Wallaceburg isn’t just about its industries. Wallaceburg offers a variety of attractions and events for tourists. Visitors can enjoy fishing, hunting, golf, and boating with a diverse range of fish species such as bass, walleye, perch, pike, muskie, trout, and panfish. The area is abundant with waterfowl, deer, and rabbits for hunters.

Boaters have access to a variety of rivers and lakes, including still water for knee boarders and wake boarders and open water for sailing and scuba diving. The Wallaceburg and District Museum, which opened in 1984, showcases the area’s history, including the First Nations community, the Baldoon settlers, and the community’s industrial heritage with a focus on glass, brass, and sugar.

The town is also known for its annual antique car, boat, bus, and fire truck show called WAMBO (Wallaceburg Antique Motor and Boat Outing). The event began in 1989 and draws visitors from all over Ontario every second weekend in August. With a population of just over 10,000, Wallaceburg is an unincorporated community in the Municipality of Chatham-Kent. Its strategic location along the banks of the scenic Sydenham River and significant contributions to the lumber and boat building industries have earned it the nickname “Glass Town of Canada”. So, whether you’re a history buff, a fan of antique cars and boats, or just looking for a charming town to explore, Wallaceburg has something for everyone.

Come for the glass, brass, and sugar history and stay for the friendly community and beautiful scenery.
With files from Wikipedia, and Frank and Alan Mann.