Brockville — Ontario’s Digital Main Street Program and Student Digital Service Squads, launched as a $57 million partnership between the Ontario and federal governments, are helping connect tech-savvy individuals (sometimes students), $2,500 in government grants and online training with local small businesses who need help launching and expanding their online stores – while government closures remain in place.
Over 500 area small businesses were contacted throughout 2020, with 72 receiving Digital Transformation Grants, and many others accessing help from hired local individuals to go digital
and increase their e-commerce sales. A total of $487,345 in funding has been provided to small businesses in Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes by Ontario in Digital Service
and Business Grants since the program was announced.
Digital Service Squads assess a business’s digital literacy and provide:
- Information on how to access the Digital Main Street digital transformation training program
- Help in creating a Digital Transformation Plan and applying for and spending the $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant
- Support to create or update a website and adopt best practices
- Advice on social media promotion and advertising
- Technological support and recommendations on tools for specific business needs
- Advice on additional digital transformation support including loyalty programs, point-of-sale systems, ecommerce and back-end business operations support.
Digital Service Squads across the province are already on track to help thousands of small businesses across Ontario develop their online offerings. This is meeting a critical need for
many Ontario businesses as they transition to online storefronts.
“Confronting the economic impacts from COVID-19 is a team effort, and through the Ontario Digital Main Street program and Digital Service Squads, we’re helping our local small businesses get up and running online,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. “I encourage all Ontarians to use their purchasing power to Support Local — by
buying their goods virtually from local small businesses today and into the future.”
The program is administered by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association, which works with participating municipalities, Chambers of Commerce and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs). The Digital Service Squads are an important part of the Digital Main Street platform that is expected to help up to 22,900 Ontario businesses create and enhance their online presence and generate jobs for more than 1,400 individuals, many of them students.
“Digital Service Squads are the true heart of the Digital Main Street initiative,” said Kay Matthews, Executive Director of the Ontario BIA Association. “By working directly with main street small businesses, these squads bring local business owners the knowledge, tools and hands-on support they need to transform to brick-and-click operations. In this way, our downtown cores can continue to be strong and vibrant while also giving local businesses the online presence to thrive through the pandemic and beyond.”
“Eastern Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and our community,” said Leeds-Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark. “The Digital Service Squads are helping our businesses transition online, allowing them to access new customers safely and reliably. By choosing to shop local we are helping our businesses stay viable and improve their competitiveness.” Ann Weir, Economic Development Manager for the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville added, “The collaborative effort of the region’s five Digital Service Squads has ensured all small businesses in Leeds Grenville had access to the programs. We are still able to assist those interested today through www.investleedsgrenville.com/digitalmainstreet”.
Currently, only about 60 percent of Ontario’s small enterprises have a website, and only 7 percent accept online payment. Through Digital Main Street, Ontario businesses are adopting new tools that will allow them to reach a wider customer base and help them weather the economic impacts of COVID-19.
- The Ontario 2020 Budget, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover outlined more than $13.5 billion in support for people and jobs.
- Digital Main Street platform is a $57 million program jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments. It is part of Ontario’s support for small businesses through Ontario’s Main Street Recovery Plan. Ontario introduced the Main Street Recovery Act, 2020, legislation that will support small businesses and modernize rules to allow them to innovate and meet the challenges of today.
- Ontario’s Small Business Support Grant provides a minimum of $10,000 to a maximum of $20,000 to eligible small businesses who have had to restrict their operations due to the Province-wide Shutdown.
- Eligible businesses can apply for more than $600 million in support through the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, Ontario Main Street Relief Grant: PPE Support and temporary property tax and energy cost rebates through a single, online application portal
- The Main Street Relief Grant provides up to $1,000 to help eligible small businesses for the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE). The Main Street Relief Grant is available to small
businesses with two to nine employees in retail, accommodations and food services, repair and maintenance, and personal and laundry services to help cover personal protective equipment costs.