BIAs celebrating 50 years in Canada

Calgary's business improvement areas benefit local economy

Here in Calgary, Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) are important partners working with The City of Calgary creating some of our best-known and most-loved neighbourhoods, promoting buy-local initiatives and enhancing streetscapes for citizens and visitors to enjoy.

Today, our city’s local main street businesses are celebrating a big milestone. Sept. 16 marks the 50th anniversary of Canada’s first BIA – groups of neighbourhood businesses working together to promote economic vitality.

“Calgary’s Business Improvement Areas have been part of our local business community for 30+ years, and a partner to The City of Calgary,” said David Duckworth, City Manager. “Their focus on the work needed to support both businesses and citizens within their BIA communities has helped to sustain the vibrancy and diversity of our local businesses, even in hard times.”

Calgary’s first BIAs (formally Business Revitalization Zones or BRZs) launched in 1984 focusing on 17th Avenue (now known as 17th Avenue Retail and Entertainment District) and South Calgary (now known as Marda Loop BIA). Today, Calgary has 15 BIAs representing 20 per cent of local businesses that employ about 55,000 people. See the complete BIA list here.

The prolonged economic downturn has been challenging to everyone and local BIAs are especially well-suited to helping members through tough times. BIAs are trusted eyes on the street when it comes to economies. Encouraging a buy-local mentality and working with The City are key to helping businesses stay afloat, says Annie MacInnis, executive director of the Kensington Business Revitalization Zone.

“It’s a really can-do mentality these days. The message we’re getting from The City is ‘what can we do to help? Tell us what you need.’ And that’s a wonderful thing to hear,” said MacInnis.

Keeping a strong focus on buying local is crucial for supporting neighbourhood businesses – it is estimated that if every household spent $10 per month buying local, the Calgary economy would get a GDP boost of $52 million and would generate an additional 823 jobs in our city.

“If we are shopping locally that money is being spent on local products, and on employees and keeping businesses open and that’s our way forward,” said MacInnis. “If people would think of doing a certain portion of their shopping locally, that’s a way forward for everybody.”

How can you #SupportLocalYYC? Every small act gives our business community hope. You can still #SupportLocalYYC while physical distancing by:

  • Buying from local businesses while physical distancing, washing your hands and wearing a mask.
  • Ordering delivery or takeout from local restaurants or visiting local spots with your family or cohort.
  • Leaving positive reviews of the businesses you love on social media and online.