The White Rock Business Improvement Association is facing a $150,000 sponsorship shortfall after it had to cancel or postpone a number of events planned for this summer.
Prior to COVID-19, the BIA hoped to set a record with the number of community events held in the city throughout the summer. An event was scheduled to take place every week from mid-May to mid-September, which executive director Alex Nixon says was an unprecedented level of activity for a community of White Rock’s size.
“Events were a very important tool for us because we’re a tourism community. White Rock has a population of about 21,000, so to support businesses, it’s crucial to bring people into the community,” Nixon told Peace Arch News Tuesday.
In recent years, the BIA has been successful in increasing business support for community events.
Events have been a way to not only increase the number of people visiting the community and, in turn, bring dollars into White Rock, but have been a useful tool for businesses to achieve name recognition.
Looking to the future, even once a COVID-19 vaccine has been widely distributed, Nixon has concerns about whether the appetite for businesses to support community events will remain.
“My major concern, to be honest, is will companies be able and willing to sponsor public events? Who’s going to be around after this? There’s very few companies that are able and willing to sponsor events already. Will there be funding available for them?”
The funding shortfall makes up about a third of BIA’s budget. Nixon said they cut back significantly on planned staffing and other expenses. Most of the BIA’s revenue comes through a property tax levy on commercial spaces.
“I think the heartbreaking thing for me is, and I keep going back to this, sponsorship was an investment in the community. It was a way to attract people into our community and that’s not available right now,” he said.
He said the BIA is looking into alternative ways to host community events, but have not yet found the best pathway.
“We’re looking at various possible street activities but it’s too early to say whether those would even be acceptable, both in terms of social licence – what the community will accept – and legally.”
Nixon said the BIA’s role has pivoted into marketing and advertising as well as liaison work with various levels of government.
“We have multiple weekly meetings with all levels of government, and even the prime minister’s office reached out to see how things are going in White Rock, which I really appreciated,” Nixon said.
“I really appreciate this unprecedented level of co-operation here because they’re rolling out programs that they’re designing on the fly, and they’re reaching out to organizations like ours and the South Surrey/White Rock Chamber of Commerce to see what the impact of those programs are and to adjust them as they can.”