Province funds grants to help small businesses

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by Hilary Thomson

Small businesses along main streets in Ontario may be eligible to receive a grant to help them move into the digital age. Digital Main Street is a digital “how to” guide program that helps small businesses grow. Thanks to funding from the Ontario government and the Ontario BIA Association, businesses along main streets throughout the province can apply for a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant to help strengthen their digital and online capabilities.

The grant can be used to implement technologies that help businesses promote themselves online, sell online, and even run back-end office processes using the internet. Businesses who wish to receive the grant must first take an online assessment of their current technology use. Then, using a template provided, they must develop a Digital Transformation Plan that will detail their goals and what technologies they will use to achieve them.

Merrickville-Wolford Economic Development Officer, Jeff McNamee, believes this is an excellent opportunity for businesses to get a leg up in using digital platforms to improve their business. “There are all kinds of stats on the change in the way people are buying,” he says. “Fifty six cents on every dollar spent is influenced by digital [platforms].”

Jeff points out that, even if a business doesn’t want to start selling online, it is still important to have an online presence. “Eighty five per cent of buyers do research online, and 50 per cent of consumers who researched a business online visited the store within a day,” he says. “Bricks and mortar stores need to get on board with online as well.”

Jeff hopes that many of the businesses in Merrickville-Wolford will take advantage of this grant. Although the grant is focusing on main streets, this can apply to businesses in the municipality’s rural hamlets as well. “I am more than happy to do the digging and advocate for business owners,” Jeff says.

Digital Main Street is also offering another grant targeted at BIAs, Municipalities, and Chambers of Commerce to help them set up a Digital Service Squad. The $10,000 would be used to set up a service squad tasked with helping main street small businesses with their digital needs.

The Digital Main Street Transformation Grant and the Digital Service Squad Grant are available until March, 2020. That being said, there are only 2,000 Digital Transformation Grants available and 300 Digital Service Squad Grants. Jeff encourages businesses-owners to apply early to ensure they receive the funding. “Get to the front of the line,” he says. “Anything that makes us more digitally astute anywhere is great.”

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