The Cumberland Business Association (CBA) sprung forth out of necessity last year as businesses everywhere scrambled to look for support during the early month of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Now, the Village of Cumberland wants to take the next step of establishing a more formal relationship with the CBA through a memorandum of understanding (MOU). This would cover issues such as communications, business support and resources, community events and funding.
“This MOU’s going to be a work in progress,” said village economic development officer Kaelin Chambers.
The item came up for discussion at council’s committee of the whole (COW) meeting on Jan. 25 at which Chambers talked about the work the association had done since it started.
“You might have noticed, particularly in the last six months, Christmas especially, all the great work they’ve been doing,” he said.
The village assisted the organization through a $4,000 grant-in-aid to help it get started. The group, which is a not-for-profit society with a board, has grown to about 80 members from the local business community. This represents almost half of the roughly 200 business licences in the community. The association includes traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses along with home-based operators. Chambers said the association represents a wide range of membership interests among businesses.
“It’s not all about the downtown core, it’s not all about events,” he said.
The #LoveCumberland brand is one of the initiatives that has come forward, along with others related to COVID-19 such as social distancing and mask messaging, and the Village Square tent that has popped up downtown.
“It’s amazing how quickly the Village Square idea came together at Christmas time,” he added.
Other examples were cited in the staff report, including the development of a downtown map resource, the Cumberland Paper Pumpkin Patch public art initiative in the fall and the creation of the Cumberland Business Directory.
Chambers suggested the MOU would help the association and clarify expectations between the two parties. The arrangement could cover seasonal events in the community. Another issue is finding a regular revenue source for the organization.
“They’re largely self-funded through their own membership drive,” he said.
Council members were quick to get behind the idea of a more formal relationship with the CBA, along with finding ways for the association to get some core funding. They also spoke highly of initiatives such as the tent in Village Square.
“I think this is something that council’s been wanting for a really long time,” Coun. Jesse Ketler said. “It’s very hard for council to help individual businesses, but if they can speak with that collective voice, you know, it’s much easier for us to communicate and help with funding support or talk to upper levels of government.”