Simcoe BIA, Chamber of Commerce to share services

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer

Downtown Simcoe

Downtown Simcoe


The Simcoe and District Chamber of Commerce and Simcoe Downtown Business Improvement Area have entered into a shared services agreement.

While the two organizations will continue to operate as separate entities, their common interests – downtown revitalization and a proposed community hub for example – has allowed for current BIA general manager Jim McGimpsey to soon become the chamber’s new part-time general manager, replacing Yvonne Di Pietro after almost 30 years of service.

The chamber will also welcome the BIA’s Michelle Balan in an administrative role. Officials say the duo will spend about 60 per cent of their time working on chamber duties and the rest on BIA initiatives.

Incoming Simcoe chamber president Meika Matthews sees the value in saving both time and money where possible.

“I sit on a lot of boards and this seems to be a struggle that organizations are facing anymore – the struggle to stay relevant but also to stay viable,” said Matthews, an accountant with Good Redden Klosler in Simcoe. “Costs are mounting and if you can find a way to spread those costs or share those costs a little bit, it’s the way to go because it can alleviate the burden so much and let you really focus on your membership interest and your mandate.”

The chamber has also hired Emy Brubacher to focus on social media and community events.

“This is an historic opportunity to bring together the hopes and aspirations of our local business community under the leadership of one manager. This model offers the promise of a stronger voice for business which will lead to meaningful, positive change in Simcoe,” Jim Carroll, chair of the Downtown Simcoe BIA, said in a release. “Jim McGimpsey has done an excellent job and our board fully supports this opportunity.”

Talks between both sides began about six months ago when Di Pietro’s impending retirement was made known.

“We knew (the BIA) had some really excellent people working there but their staff was kind of underutilized,” said Matthews. “They were really trying to do great things and the things they were trying to do were complimentary with what we try to do as the chamber.”

“We also identified there is an opportunity to share some costs there both in terms of staff and other costs too like possibly (building) rental going forward. We don’t really know what that looks like for both organizations yet but we’re working towards that.”

A memo of understanding has been drawn up that states McGimpsey and Balan will work for both organizations but are on separate employment contracts. It also discusses how conflicts of interest could arise, how to deal with them, and how the two organizations are going to communicate on a regular basis.

“The BIA is really focused on the downtown and with the chamber, we have to consider that broader group of members,” Matthews points out.

This has all been announced as the chamber goes through a board transition. Matthews will take over for former president Ian Swinton at the end of the month. She said both Swinton and Di Pietro have left a lasting impression on the organization and community in general.

“You talk about a big set of shoes to fill, but I’m really excited to take the next step with the chamber and I really think this is a cool, creative, team approach that we’ve come up with,” she said. “We’ve got a very strong board and Yvonne is retiring but I’m sure she’ll be there to help us along the way.”