Kitchener-Waterloo

'Some good stuff on the way' in Galt, new BIA manager says

Eric Bolton is the new marketing manager for the Galt BIA. The BIA has been criticized recently for events that have been cancelled including a car show and Grand Fest. Bolton says new events are on the way and he hopes to rebuild the relationships between the businesses in Galt's core.

'It was felt by many business owners that it was time for some change,' Eric Bolton says

Some events in Galt have been cancelled for this summer. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Things are about to change in Galt.

Things are already been changing dramatically in the Cambridge core with new developments such as the planned Gas Light District and a new public library branch. 

But Eric Bolton wants businesses to know he's planning to shake things up, too.

"There's definitely some good stuff on the way," he said Tuesday in an interview on The Morning Edition with Craig Norris.

Bolton's the new marketing manager for the Galt Business Improvement Area (BIA), also known as Galt on the Grand.

Bolton is already known to the businesses in Galt's core for starting the campaign Galt Love about three years ago. He and other businesses organized First Friday-type events where stores would stay open later, offering promotions and events to get people into the area.

Eric Bolton of the Galt BIA says he's excited to bring in some new events to Galt's core. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Galt Love "has turned into more of a mentality than it is an event," he said.

"We see people using the hashtag Galt Love and posting about anything positive, whether it be in their business or if it's someone out in the town with their kids."

Those collaborative events were business driven, and the BIA had little to do with planning any of it.

In fact, Bolton said, many businesses felt like the BIA wasn't approachable. Some event planners couldn't get meetings with the BIA to ask for help with sponsorship or promotions.

All of that is going to change, he said.

Bolton is hoping to have a number of events this summer that focus on local businesses, such as a fitness day where people can learn more about health, wellness and fitness businesses in Galt's core while also taking in some free outdoor classes near city hall.

There's a potters market planned for August, and another a big event Bolton would love to see happen is a fundraising dinner on the Main Street bridge.

He also wants local businesses to know the BIA will be there to support them, promote their own events and aid them in whatever way they can. They've already collaborated with the Idea Exchange for the opening party for the new post office location.

The former post office in Galt was designated as a national historic site of Canada in 1983. It will be opening this summer as a new branch of the Idea Exchange. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

Car show, Grand Fest cancelled

Sometimes when things change, though, people aren't happy about it.

On Facebook, some residents were asking what happened to two events in Galt: The Tyrods Car Club show and Grand Fest.

Grand Fest, Bolton explained, was cancelled because it cost the BIA $40,000, and businesses said they were seeing little benefit from it.

"Last year seemed a bit less attended than the years before but also, without any disrespect, it was a crowd that wouldn't often be a returning crowd to the shops that were downtown. That's what was felt by many business owners," he said.

He wasn't sure why the BIA decided not to fund the car show this year.

On Facebook, the Tyrods Car Club said the BIA would not pay for the rental of the parking lot, insurance on the PA system or collect prizes — something the BIA had done previously.

It was sad, club organizers said, but they're moving forward.

In a message to CBC K-W on Facebook, the show organizers said the problems were more than just the lack of funding. Too many people were remaining in the parking lot they used past 5 p.m. despite it being booked for the event, which caused traffic problems and the group was concerned about accidents.

"The Tyrods are no longer interested in hosting that event if they decided to bring it back," the group said, noting they've found more people are attending their cruise nights.

The view part of Galt's core from the top floor of the Old Post Office in Cambridge. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

'Time for some change'

Bolton started his new role at the end of March and has spent much of his time connecting with local businesses and just rebuilding relationships. He's spent a lot of time just updating the BIA's contact list.

But he's also been able to go out to businesses to explain how the BIA is going to change and said the response has been largely positive.

"It was felt by many business owners that it was time for some change," he said. "Everyone seems to be on the same page."

Some residents have raised concerns about the homeless shelter in Galt and discarded needles being found on sidewalks and parks.

Bolton acknowledged this is a problem, but he said he knows two businesses have moved into Galt specifically because of the Galt Love campaign and the shifting energy in the core.

"I'm a strong believer in, when you build the good and you fill those storefronts, those other things might not go away, but they don't become the focus," he said.

"Every community has various struggles and various challenges, but your focus then goes to the positive and then collectively you can work to see how you can continue to tackle those challenges."

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