Digital Main Street
Helping Main Street Business Grow by Adopting Digital Tools & Technologies
The Digital Main Street Program, funded by the Province of Ontario in partnership with the Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA), seeks to help small main street businesses across Ontario improve their adoption of technologies to better promote themselves online, sell online, and even run back-office processes online. Every business that wants to participate in the grant must first take an online assessment of their current technology use and complete the online training in order to develop a Digital Transformation Plan (DTP) that will detail their goals and review the technologies needed to achieve those goals. To help implement the plan, eligible businesses can apply for a one-time grant of $2,500 to assist with the costs of adopting the suggested technologies.
A Digital Transformation grant is open to businesses that meet the following requirements*:
Must be a main street business that:
• Is within a BIA, is located within a defined central business district, OR is located downtown by a municipality’s Official Plan / Zoning By-law (note: a main thoroughfare does not necessarily constitute a main street/downtown/district).
• Is employing 1-99 employees.
• Is paying commercial property tax (commercially assessed), either directly or through commercial rent.
• Is a registered business in Ontario and/or is incorporated.
• Is NOT a business supplying digital services to other businesses (e.g. website design/development, SEO, programming).
• Is NOT a franchise.
• Is NOT a not-for-profit/ charitable organization.
• Is NOT renting office space on a temporary basis (month to month).
• Is NOT a shared workspace such as a hot desk or dedicated desk.
• Is NOT a purely online business.
• An Ontario resident or operating a business in Ontario.
• An individual of 18 years of age or older at the time of application.
• A Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
Has completed the Digital Transformation for Main Street program:
• Has completed the Digital Main Street Assessment.
• Has completed the online training.
• Has developed a Digital Transformation Plan.
• OBIAA reserves the right to determine who is eligible/ ineligible on a case-by-case basis.
Eligible costs that can be offset by the grant include: digital technology contracts/salaries, website design and development software, hardware and training. More specifically:
• Hiring a consultant/agency/person to execute digital marketing initiatives.
• Redesign, improvement of an existing website.
• Development of new website.
• Graphic design software.
• Productivity software (LastPass, Hootsuite, Dropbox, etc.).
• Social media software (Hootsuite, Buffer, etc.).
• Other software as evidenced in the DTP.
• Ongoing digital training courses (in-person and online).
• Hardware must be deemed necessary.
Costs that are ineligible include:
• Unnecessary or excessive equipment (or equipment you already have and want to upgrade).
• Owners’ salaries or salaries of existing employees.
• Repayment of other loans or past debts.
• Repair of existing equipment.
Applications for Digital Transformation Grants began on October 15, 2018 and will continue to be accepted until December 31, 2019. The process for businesses applying for a Digital Transformation Grant has two main stages. NOTE: businesses MUST have completed their assessment, their online training, and their Digital Transformation Plan BEFORE applying for a grant.
Stage 1 – Application:
1. Complete a grant application at digitalmainstreet.ca/Ontario that includes detailed information on the DTP, along with a detailed budget.
2. Submit a copy of their articles of incorporation or business registration.
Stage 2 – Review and Granting:
1. OBIAA will review the application and once approved, the business will receive the grant agreement to be executed by both the business owner and OBIAA.
2. Upon receipt of the signed grant agreement, OBIAA will release the $2,500 grant to the business to begin implementing the DTP.
As part of the Digital Main Street Grant program, funded by the Province of Ontario in partnership with the Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA), Digital Service Squads are digital technology specialists in an area or region of Ontario who will deliver one-on-one assistance to small main street businesses.
The squads will provide assessments, consulting and advice to small main street businesses on how they can adopt digital technologies to help them promote, sell and manage their businesses more effectively.
Setting up a Digital Service Squad takes time and money. The Province of Ontario has grants available to help cover the costs to develop, train and implement Squads. Each one-time grant is $10,000 and is available through an application process.
A DSSG grant is open to businesses that meet one of the following requirements:
• Is a local BIA located in Ontario and/or,
• Is a Municipality, Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Enterprise Centre in an area where there are no BIAs present and is located in Ontario and/or,
• Is an area with multiple BIAs that partner with the Municipality, Chamber of Commerce, or Small Enterprise Centre to create a Centralized Project Partnership (CPP).
A DSSG grant is open to businesses that meet one of the following requirements:
• Each BIA is eligible to apply for a single grant of up to $10,000.
• Each area where there is no BIA present, but the local municipality or community group is setting up the Squad is eligible to apply for a single grant of up to $10,000.
• Each area that creates a CPP is eligible to apply for grants based on the number of BIAs within the area x $10,000.
• Flexibility exists for outlier areas that are not accurately represented by the criteria.
The eligible costs that can be offset by the grant are equipment costs, staff costs, and print marketing material.
• Equipment limited to $1,200.
o PC or equivalent to a maximum of $350
o 360-degree camera kit (approx. $600)
◆ 360 Degree Camera – up to $500
◆ Battery Pack – up to $50
◆ Tripod or equivalent – up to $40
o Mobile Hot Spot or equivalent up to a maximum of $200 (monthly service costs not included)
• Print marketing limited to $300 (postcards/flyers promoting the service locally).
• Total eligible costs outside of salary/wages of $1,500.
• Salary/wages and travel $8,500 (mileage maximum based on Canada Revenue Agency rates).
Ineligible costs include unnecessary or excessive equipment, personal salaries, repayment of other loans, past debts, software, and repair of existing equipment.
*Note the grant cannot be used to pay a current member of your team to be on the Digital Service Squad.
Applications for DSSG began on October 15, 2018 and will continue to be accepted until December 31, 2019. For entities applying for a grant, the process is as follows:
1. Describe the applicant and detail any partnership formed for the purposes of this grant application. Include copies of partnership agreements or Memoranda of Understanding if applicable.
2. Provide detailed information regarding the intent, plan and players: a. Describe the organizational structure and who will be responsible for the administration of the grant funds.
b. Describe the applicant’s geographic area including (if applicable) the number of BIAs and the number of main street businesses to be served.
c. Describe the applicant’s process of acquisition of goods and services for the purposes of satisfying the grant project goals.
d. Describe the project action plan to include timelines for hiring staff, purchasing equipment, and executing deliverables.
e. Include a detailed budget.
1. OBIAA will review the application and once approved, the applying entity will receive the grant agreement to be executed by both the entity and the OBIAA.
2. Upon receipt of the signed grant agreement, OBIAA will release the grant funds to begin implementing the Digital Service Squad in their city.
Make Sure Your Members Know About Digital Main Street & Campaign-in-a-Box
We’ve put together a virtual Campaign-in-a-Box a set of tools to help you raise awareness of Digital Main Street in your BIA. It’s important that your member businesses know about Digital Main Street and how to get access to the grant funding and tools that are available.