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Downtown Sudbury business group changing focus

The Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Association (BIA) says it is getting away from hosting big events and putting its focus on supporting its members in other ways, boosting its offerings and bridging the gap with vulnerable populations.

Last weekend, Sudbury's annual Ribfest was held in Bell Park by Ramsey Lake instead of downtown as the BIA passed the event on to a new promoter.

Kyle Marcus, the BIA's managing director, told CTV News in an interview lots of downtown business groups are moving away from large-scale events "and trying to facilitate, empower and sponsor those whose job it actually is to throw" them.

"By doing so, we can use our funds to invest on a more regular basis through the community to see a better return on investment," Marcus said.

"Whether it's community money or in-kind contributions, our marketing capacity, those sort of things …. We just need to work hard for our members and make sure everything that we do is absolutely in their best interest."

Several initiatives such as the zero vacancy and patio programs are seeing some success, he said.

"Zero Vacancy is probably our shining star of the year. It's a program we started just about a year ago, last November. And, we took over five spaces in the downtown core and we actually work with the landlords themselves," Marcus said.

"We essentially went to them and asked them what their carrying costs for a month was, we added a bit of money to that for kind of usage, of utilities and then thought that we could move in non-traditional renters, makers, vendors, artists those sort of things to try to stimulate foot traffic."

While the program helps people test their business idea in a low-cost retail space, it helps local property owners and other nearby units become more marketable, he said.

"Through the patio program, we've incentivized a rebate of up to $220,000 into members' pockets so they can make it beautiful, accessible," Marcus said.

Issues of homelessness and addictions in the downtown core can often be a deterrent for people to visit the area, but he said the BIA is working with people facing employability challenges.

"Our clean-up program has actually brought our vulnerable populations into our community as opposed to kind of pushing them away," Marcus said.

"And what's been really neat to see is, as we see an increase in visitors and our businesses get back on our feet, that playing field between our vulnerable populations and our businesses get smaller. And what we've seen is an increased level of compassion and increased level of advocacy and an increase in pride in our community."   

The BIA is also working on finding a new, indoor site for the farmer's market. Top Stories

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