Sergio Morales: Downtown BIA Needs To Refocus and Advocate For Businesses

Morales says governance and personality issues at the root of the BIA's problems

Barrie City Councillor Sergio Morales is wearing the skipper’s hat on an interim basis as Chair of the Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA), and he’s determined to steer the BIA out of some very rough water.

Six board members have resigned over the past few weeks. Late last month, Barrie council removed two city-appointed members – councillors Clare Riepma and Keenan Alywin-and replaced them with Morales.

“We want to keep moving forward as an association,” said Morales. “Our downtown businesses count on it. We need that stability.”

While Morales wants to move forward, he has no choice but to look back to see what brought the BIA to this point, in what appears to have started as closed-door in-fighting that opened up into the public realm.

Morales said there was concern about governance and personality.

“At the end of the day, the priority isn’t about personalities. The priority is about moving the association forward. Sometimes it’s just a matter of resetting, having new people.”

He compares the shakeup at the BIA to a retool and says this is no different than what happens at workplaces or on sports organizations.

Morales says it was very clear with deputation’s to Barrie City Council recently, including the former chair of the BIA, who was representing other stakeholders, that the focus of the BIA was not being met.

He wants to refocus the BIA’s time and brand into advocating for businesses.

“We need to make a really hard push to the public who might have forgotten about the downtown or might have said they are not liking what’s going on in the area, and they are going to stick to other stores. “

Morales wants to remind them the downtown is open for business and that it is the heartbeat and soul of the city.

The BIA board will spend the next few weeks reviewing the election and nomination process to find new members. Morales expects a vote will take place in February and there will be a new board in place by spring.