So what is a BIA? A BIA or Business Improvement Area is a defined area within which all businesses are required to pay an additional tax (or sometimes called a levy) in order to fund projects within the local area’s defined boundaries. While the BIA is often primarily funded through the tax/levy, it can also draw on other public and private funding streams.

Some BIAs go by other names, such as Business Improvement District (BID), Community Improvement District (CID), Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ), Special Improvement District (SID) or even Special Services Area (SSA). The purpose of these districts is typically to fund events and services which are perceived by some businesses as being inadequately performed by government via its existing tax revenues. These can include street fairs, marketing the area and the businesses in the area, activities as street clean-ups, streetscape enhancements of main business areas and providing additional area security.

In 1970, as an initiative by local private businesses, the first BIA was established in Toronto by the Bloor West Village Business Improvement Area. It was not until 1974 that the first BID was established in the United States. The Downtown Development District in New Orleans caught the attention of more U.S. cities and the movement began to grow. It is estimated that there are now 1,200 across the country. Not long after that, other countries established BIAs including the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Jamaica, Germany and the Netherlands.

Throughout the world, Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) are helping to re-shape the traditional assumptions of public management. The concept and application of these public/private partnerships are to merge public and private management, build entrepreneurship and social capital. They bring together the knowledge and skills of business owners and the planning and community development of government in a collective and collaborative manner with the goal of forming a citizen-driven governance.

So what does this mean to your small business?

A BIA provides local business-area merchants with the resources to develop marketing campaigns, increase awareness, and enhance public improvement projects in partnership with the municipality. An organized business community can work more effectively to create positive change and increase support for small businesses in the area.

Even if your small business is not a retail or storefront operation, being involved with your local BIA can help to open other doors and opportunities. BIA improvements and activities help to create a more vibrant local community and a more prosperous local economic environment. A more vibrant community creates a more inviting atmosphere that customers will enjoy.

In Toronto, a very unique BIA was started in 2001 in an area known as Liberty Village – which became the first non-retail BIA in Canada. It encompassed more than 500 businesses and almost 8,000 employees located in a campus-style community that was used to house factories and large industries (the largest of which was the old Inglis Appliances factory).

At Telsec, we have our own office space for rent Toronto community that is similar to a BIA – except there is no special levy assessed by the city or by Telsec. We are determined to continue not only delivering the highest quality of service, but we are taking steps to build our own business community while offering more to our clients in terms of professional development activities and networking events.

Some of the things that Telsec has already done to help our clients and community, is to offer our executive office, private office, semi-private office, team space and shared office tenants free promotional elevator-style pitch videos. These videos can be used by the tenant on their website or on services like Youtube. As well, we will feature them on the Telsec Youtube channel.