In 2017 the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association suspended operations and businesses downtown quickly discovered the difference between having a group functioning to support business success and having nobody leading the way.

Since then, different individuals, merchant groups, and the Chamber of Commerce have been contributing their energy to advocate for downtown businesses creating events and promotions to build traffic downtown. Although helpful, the lack of an overall plan, consistency of effort, and focused energy does not serve the needs of downtown businesses well enough.

In 2019, the Chamber began working with merchants to organize a new non-profit society made up of downtown business operators and property owners. That status was granted by the Province in May of 2020 and the organization has applied to the city for BIA status.

The new BIA will:

  • Become the dedicated, independent voice of downtown speaking through a Board of Directors elected at a grass roots level.
  • Work with existing, neighbouring downtown business associations and organizations in partnerships for the common good.
  • Seek funding in addition to the money raised from the BIA levy through partnerships, sponsorships and cooperative campaigns. The BIA will NOT be seeking a partnership with the city to match the levy with taxpayer’s funds.
  • Work with specialists and contractors to undertake promotional programming, events, community development and safety and security.

Now it’s up to downtown property owners to decide if the BIA will go ahead. They have the choice of supporting a small levy on their properties to financially support the BIA. Keeping the number of participants high, keeps the individual levy low. Funds collected would be reinvested wholly in improving the chances of success for downtown businesses. Programming and planning for downtown would focus on attracting shoppers and visitors by providing attractions and events to animate downtown streets. Property owners primarily download the additional costs of the levy onto their tenants who benefit from increased traffic and sales, and an improved downtown environment.

Downtown’s challenges won’t be resolved without the commitment of this grassroots organization, and certainly not without the resources a BIA can put in the hands of this new independent group looking out for downtown. Offer your encouragement to downtown merchants by supporting a new BIA for downtown Nanaimo and, if you’re a downtown property owner, support a brighter future for downtown by supporting a new BIA.


It is a pleasure to be your Chair for this upcoming Chamber year. I want to take a few moments to introduce myself for those of you who don’t know me. Aside from a short period in Victoria for law school, I’ve been in Nanaimo for most of the last 15 years. I’m a lawyer with Johnston Franklin Bishop, and I’ve been involved with the Chamber for several years now, first sitting on our Successful Cities Committee before becoming a Director, then Vice-Chair, and now Chair.

The reason I’ve been involved in the Chamber is that I firmly believe that a community is only as strong as the businesses that operate in it, and that is especially true in a community like ours, where the vast majority of business licences issued are to sole proprietors and small partnerships. In other words, our business community IS our arts community, and our social network, and our neighbours, and in many cases, our family.

From the mom-and-pop shops who return their hard-earned money into the local economy to the large-scale operations who donate year after year in support of social or arts and culture events, we need a strong and involved business community because that is the engine that keeps a city vibrant and successful.

By the same token, a Chamber of Commerce is only as strong as the members that make it up. Your board of directors is selected from and by you – to represent you.

At each Chamber Luncheon I will ask the Board of Directors to stand so you can put a face to their names – and that is because these people are here for you. The same goes for our hard-working staff, and our wonderful volunteer Chamber ambassadors. If you are out in the community and you see something in the course of your business that you think the Chamber can help with, I encourage you to reach out to any one of us and let us know.

We are only a small group and can’t be everywhere at once – you are the eyes and ears of our organization, so please never be shy about reaching out. It’s our job, and our commitment to you.