The Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA) and the Government of Ontario launched Ontario Digital Main Street during Small Business Week 2018 at Shopify Headquarters in Ottawa, and now, a year later, are proud to report on the progress of this important program in recognition of Small Business Week 2019.

Part of the Ontario government’s Main Street Enhancement Fund, Digital Main Street is designed to help small businesses across Ontario improve their digital capabilities and tap into the latest trends of today’s digital economy, including setting up an online store, being more mobile-friendly and using social media and apps to grow their business.

“It’s incredible to see the many businesses across the province who have chosen to benefit from the expertise of Digital Service Squads and the Digital Main Street program to help them embrace digital technology,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Our government is committed to helping small businesses to improve their competitiveness, create jobs and attract investment. Our investment in the Digital Main Street program is further proof that Ontario is open for business and open for jobs.”

In the past year, Ontario small businesses, business groups and municipalities have taken advantage of the program, showing that they recognize the importance of digital marketing and processes to business success:

  1. Almost 500 Ontario main street small business owners have successfully applied for $2,500 Digital Transformation Grants to help them take advantage of digital tools and techniques. These grants represent more than $1,250,000 in funds distributed to small businesses across the province.
  2. More than 5,500 Ontario main street small business owners have taken advantage of Digital Main Street’s complimentary digital assessment and over 3,200 have started or completed the complimentary online training.
  3. More than 900 Ontario main street small business owners attended complimentary Camp Tech webinars and in-person workshops on digital marketing skills and technologies.
  4. More than 85 Digital Service Squads, representing more than 300 Ontario BIAs, Chambers of Commerce and municipalities, have been established through grants of $10,000 to assist local main street small businesses with their digital transformations. These grants represent almost $2,500,000.
  5. 172 new jobs have been created to staff Ontario Digital Service Squads.

“We are thrilled by the results so far. The uptake is clearly demonstrating that Ontario’s main street small businesses need access to tools, expertise and financial assistance to capitalize on the new opportunities that digital technologies can provide,” said Kay Matthews, Executive Director of OBIAA.
The Ontario Digital Main Street Initiative extends an existing Toronto-based program, founded by the Toronto Association of BIAs, to main street small businesses across the province through:

  • Digital Transformation Training and Grants Program: grants of $2,500 to help businesses strategically adopt technology and meet their digital goals.
  • Digital Service Squad Grants and Program: grants of up to $10,000 to develop Digital Service Squads to provide one-on-one assistance and digital assessments by trained teams that can go into businesses to offer services and recommendations, including activating free and easy-to-use tools.
  • Digital Training (online and in-person): a series of free digital skills webinars and workshops that cover digital topics including SEO, social media, website development and online advertising.

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