KBIA Ambassador: Week 8 in Review
Oh what a bittersweet time it is. As I prepare to go back to school in just over a week, this blog post marks my last with the BIA and the end of my tenure here. Before I delve into my experience with the BIA, I have a separate point to make. I would like to thank everyone that I’ve crossed paths with in these last 8 weeks. Thank you for being so kind. Thank you for welcoming me into your community and thank you for making my experience such a great one. In particular, I’d like to thank the entire BIA, Louise, Matt, Sony and Patty for all their help these past two months.
Coming here as a student from Ryerson University in downtown Toronto – surrounded by all the lights, glitz and the glamour – and as a resident of Thornhill, where I am surrounded by big box stores like Wal-Mart, getting a feel for a small-business-centric area like downtown Kleinburg was refreshing. Seeing how everyone seemed to know everyone and the community was so close-knit was an unusually amazing experience for me, and that was all before I started actually working with the BIA.
In my eight weeks here, I’ve experienced so much. From the great discussions I’ve had to the locals and business owners to the data collection and beautification, this job has taught me so much about the operation of a small business environment as opposed to a big box store centric atmosphere like I am familiar with.
Talking to people has never been my forte. I’m not a particularly shy person but talking with people I don’t know has never been easy. Thankfully, this job has brought me out of my shell quite a bit and forced me to (thankfully) learn how to talk to people without much hesitation. The great thing about talking to people in the context of this job was that I wasn’t talking to people just to talk to them. Instead, I was talking to these people for a specific and worthwhile purpose. With this position, because I was talking to people for the purpose of gathering information, I had such a good time talking to everyone around town. As eluded to before, being the summer student with the KBIA gave me a reason to break out of my shell and talking to people – whether that was an employee of a local merchant or pedestrians around town – was a truly amazing experience because of the insight it allowed me to absorb regarding how a small downtown operates in comparison to a “typical” downtown. I learned that a “downtown” like this has obviously unique issues and advantages when juxtaposed with a downtown like that in Toronto, for example, and talking to people here over the last 8 weeks really allowed me to understand the great intricacies of a place like this. This was surely one of the greatest highlights of my time here.
Moreover, the data gathering part of my job here was another amazing experience that gives me so much appreciation for my time in Kleinburg. Whether that data is typical numbers or anecdotal stories, the idea of gathering information for later use is so appealing to me. Thankfully, this position gave me the opportunity to do just that. Largely through surveys and discussion with people around town, being the summer student with the KBIA provided me with so many opportunities to understand gather data pertaining to the deficiencies of the downtown area in Kleinburg, all in an attempt to understand why this area struggles with attracting locals. Through this task, I have learned a great deal, as I indicated above, about how many people have such strong and differing opinions about such a small area – one that seems to require much less thought and consideration at first glance. All in all, the data gathering aspect of this position was a delightful part of my time here and one of the best tasks encompassed in this entire experience for me.
Further, another noteworthy part of my time with the KBIA were the two board meetings I attended during my tenure. Although I was only present for portions of both meetings, I learned a lot about the intricacies of the BIA during these meetings, including valuable information about just how much work goes into this small organization’s operation and development and how intricate the processes of an organization like this are. There is so much detail and thought that must go into every decision this group makes and despite it’s size, I have learned that the ramifications of their decisions have a great impact on the town – something I was told but did not understand fully until I sat in for the two board meetings. Appropriately, while this part of my experience did not severely impact my time here, it definitely gave me a lot of insight that I believe can help with my professional development as I prepare for life after university – so for that I am thankful to these board meetings as well.
In a nutshell, throughout my experience here, I was constantly talking to people, getting to know the area and gaining an understanding of how an area so dependent on small business operates in a society dominated by the exact opposite – big box retailers with no regard for “the little guy”. Overall, this experience was one of the most enlightening periods of my life and I am so appreciative that I was able to go through this for both my personal and professional development.
All that said, I’d like to regurgitate my thanks to the entire Kleinburg community and say that I wish you all and the BIA all the best in the near and distant future. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again sometime soon.
With sincerest thanks,