The Chatham-Kent Small Business Centre and Economic Development has brought back the successful Digital Service Squad team thanks to a grant of $95,000 through the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) and the Digital Main Street program.
Municipal officials say the team is assisting local downtown areas and businesses across Chatham-Kent with improving their digital footprint and helping to take advantage of new online tools.
Funding for the grant was provided by FedDev Ontario, a federal program.
“Round one of the program was a huge hit for businesses in Chatham-Kent and we are thrilled to be able to offer the service again through our Small Business Centre,” stated Jamie Rainbird, Manager of Chatham-Kent Economic Development, in a press release.
“The grant will allow us to run the program for several months, but time is limited so we’re asking businesses to take advantage of it as soon as possible.”
Established in 2018, the Digital Main Street (DMS) program was extended thanks to an investment of $42.5 million from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and $7.45 million from the Ministry for Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT).
The almost $50-million investment will help small businesses across Ontario pivot their operations to include online business models, regain lost revenue, and become more resilient and competitive as the economy recovers, Municipal officials say.
The OBIAA administers the DMS grant program for Ontario’s main street small businesses.
“Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the keystone of our economic recovery,” stated Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, in a media release.
“That is why we have invested in Digital Main Street to help these enterprises adapt to doing business in a digital world and take advantage of the record number of people shopping online. Congratulations to Chatham-Kent for partnering together on this initiative. The work you’re doing with small businesses in your community will help keep our main streets vibrant, support good local jobs and help our economy come back strong.”
Digital Service Squads are fundamental to Digital Main Street’s design and success, with trained specialists who meet with small business, at no cost, to help them improve their online presence.
The squads assist with a number of activities, including developing a Google My Business profile, enhancing their social media presence and providing support of basic website and e-commerce set-up, Municipal officials say.
Squads will also assist qualified small businesses through the application process for a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant, which includes an online assessment, online training modules and the development of a Digital Transformation Plan (DTP).
Businesses have an opportunity to apply for a Digital Transformation grant of $2,500 from now until the end of November.
“The COVID-19 pandemic hit Ontario’s main streets hard, so Digital Main Street is needed more than ever,” said Kay Matthews, Executive Director of OBIAA, in a media release.
“We know that businesses that participated in Digital Main Street last year were better able to cope when the pandemic hit, and we’re excited that FedDev Ontario and MEDJCT are providing the funding to extend this important program to help businesses in communities across Chatham-Kent.”
Rainbird added: “The Digital Transformation grant is available for businesses located within BIA borders and limited identified regions. We invite business owners to reach out to the Small Business Centre to see if they qualify, this includes businesses that received the grant during the first round as they may also qualify again.”
Rick Nicholls, MPP for Chatham-Kent and Leamington, said this is great news for businesses in Chatham-Kent and will be vital to helping downtown areas remain competitive in a local and global marketplace.
“Our government is committed to ensuring that small businesses are given the opportunity to embrace digital technology so they can continue to grow, create jobs, and be the backbone of our economy,” Nicholls said in a media release.
“The Digital Main Street program will help to ensure that Ontario is open for business and open for jobs.”
When asked about the program, Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff indicated he was in full support.
“I’m proud of our Small Business Centre and Economic Development department for bringing a program like Digital Main Street to help our businesses because it’s good for the economy and good for the people of Chatham-Kent,” said the Mayor in a media release.
“This is the right step to be taking at a time where the adoption of online ordering has been drastically accelerated. Shopping online can mean shopping local when our merchants, restaurants, and other industries have the tools they need to make it easy for residents.”
For more information about the Chatham-Kent Small Business Centre and the Digital Service Squad, visit them online at www.investck.ca.