Garth Johns, born and bred in Oshawa, serves as the Executive Director for the Oshawa Business Improvement Association (BIA). The BIA serves an important role as a business group for the biggest city in Durham Region, and Johns is looking to ramp up a full branding vision for downtown Oshawa in 2019.
The BIA networks with the Oshawa City Council to generate business busyness in downtown Oshawa. For Garth, the challenge to accelerate Oshawa’s downtown into a fast-paced, vibrant ecosystem fits right in with his life experiences, passion, and love for the city.
In December, 2019, on Christmas Eve Day, Johns turns 65, and he plans to work hard over the next few years to bring Oshawa’s famous downtown to the forefront of a 21st-century metropolitan hub.
He leads the BIA’s 400 members with a keen sense of responsibility to network downtown businesses into the evolving vision of where the City is heading, of the kind of future it’s carving out for itself.
He wants to be the leader who makes that happen, who marks his tenure of service to the city of his birth and life, with visionary intent and purposeful possibility.
With the sudden shutting down of the historical GM automobile manufacturing plant in South Oshawa, Johns said he expects ripple effects to impact the downtown core’s socioeconomic well-being. But, bubbling with optimism, with a mindset of positive possibilities, and purposeful leadership, he sees the opening up of brand new opportunities to exercise imaginative creativity to generate a rebranded downtown Oshawa.
Started in Toronto, the concept of BIA’s is for municipalities across Ontario to build vibrant, business-friendly, aesthetically-pleasing downtown core. BIA’s operate under the Municipal Act. “Our BIA is an extension of the City of Oshawa, and receives its funding through the City. Actually, the funding comes from members, who pay a membership due that is embedded in their city taxes, which the City extracts and advances to the BIA,” Johns said. Funding amounts to $250,000 per year.
Johns has played an integral role in public life in Oshawa, serving at the Durham Regional government, on several Boards, and teaching at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). He served as Commissioner for the Durham Regional Council for a decade.
His expertise is in Human Resources Management, having operated his Consultancy business for 22 years, focusing on Leadership Development and Organizational Behaviour.
Johns had worked alongside Oshawa’s Mayor Dan Carter, in an organization called the Hope and Leadership Center, and they know each other well. So the two have already met and “we are working on a solid strategy to clean up and improve downtown Oshawa,” Johns said.
South Oshawa’s high rate of socioeconomic drag spills over into the downtown core that Johns and the BIA oversee, including the popular Memorial Park. In fact, Oshawa’s downtown around the Park built up an unflattering reputation as a place of degradation and social ills. These issues, Johns is determined to tackle and solve before his leadership in city affairs is over.
The father of three grown children and three grandchildren is gearing up for a vibrant 2019 to bring Oshawa’s downtown core to new heights. “Oshawa is a bedroom community, where people live, but most tend to work away from the city. So we’re working to develop visions and strategies to bring business here, so people work, live and play here,” Johns said.
Johns is open, engaging, listens well to suggestions and recommendations from residents and members of the BIA, and is facing the future full of energy to make Oshawa among the best cities in Ontario.