Main Street Action Week: Small Business-Friendly Policy for Main Streets

Joining CUI host Andre Cote for our next session of Main Street Action Week: Small Business-Friendly Policy for Main Streets – are presenters John Archer, Chief Development Officer at 360 Collective and Judy Morgan, Principal at 360 Collective; Dr. Alexandra Flynn, University of British Columbia;  Judy Lam, Manager of Commercial Districts and Small Business for the City of Hamilton; Chris Rickett, Director of Municipal and Stakeholder Relations at the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation; and Antoinette Rodrigue, Chargée de projet, Développement et innovation, Association des sociétés de développement commercial de Montréal. This event is co-presented with 360 Collective.

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Collaboration is essential

There is an urgent need to facilitate direct business to government contact. According to 360 Collective’s Judy Morgan, “a successful policy response needs to consider that business is a partner.” BIAs know their own needs the best. Cities must take a leadership role to enable businesses to go forward with much needed and asked for adaptations. It is important to note that the needs of small businesses are place-based. Each community has its own set of needs.

2. The pandemic pop-up

Dr. Alexandra Flynn, Assistant Professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, has researched how pop-ups are created and managed. Alexandra identifies a new type, the pandemic pop-up. Relaxed patio rules and the expansion of pedestrian zones are examples of an improved decision-making process characterized by urgency. Municipalities must become more responsive to the needs of small businesses and work with them to develop fast, innovative solutions that may outlast the pandemic.

3. Do not be afraid to fail 

Chris Rickett, of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, shares his experience leading the City of Toronto’s economic response to COVID. Chris highlights the need to be much more activist in rebuilding Main Street. The pandemic has brought new challenges that cities and businesses must adapt to. This requires experimentation through rapid prototyping. Chris has a message for public servants and local politicians: “Let your great staff go run free and develop cool and interesting solutions and get behind them and support them. ”

4. Consider unrepresented businesses

Flynn points out that there are a wide range of businesses in our cities not captured by BIAs. Businesses run by newcomers in dense immigrant communities are one such group. Canada’s multicultural cities require special considerations when it comes to inclusivity. John Archer, also of the 360 Collective, identifies the need to understand how businesses run by newcomers operate. Morgan reiterates that special attention needs to be paid to start-ups and businesses owned by equity seeking groups.

5. Enabling business communities to build their own resilience 

COVID has hit the small business sector the hardest. Main streets were already struggling in the lead up to the pandemic. Technological advancements have changed the face of retail shifting patrons from brick and mortar shops to online stores. Municipal initiatives such as Hamilton’s Hometown Hub and Toronto’s Digital Main Street have partnered small businesses with tech savvy website developers to bring main street online. With disruptions to traditional retail, the City of Hamilton’s Judy Lam stresses that for small businesses to survive e-commerce must be on their business plan.