Update: This recommendation was approved by Council at their December 7, 2020 electronic meeting.
Municipality of Chatham-Kent staff is recommending $125,000 be approved by Council to further expand and fund the Digital Main Street Grant program, offered through the Small Business Centre, to Chatham-Kent’s rural businesses.
Staff are recommending to cover the cost by utilizing the Municipality’s funding received through the Province’s Safe ReStart Agreement for Ontario.
“In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the effectiveness of this very successful program, Economic Development Services is anticipating a surge of both current and future entrepreneurs to adopt and escalate the use of technology to expand their online presence in order to increase profits, brand awareness, efficiency of operations and increase their business-customer interactions/sales online and in-store,” said Stuart McFadden, director of economic development, in a staff report.
“Because the criteria of the current program that only funds businesses that are located in main street areas, Economic Development Services is requesting that $125,000 be directed from the Ontario Safe ReStart Agreement to allow rural businesses outside the downtown areas this same opportunity.”
McFadden said the $125,000 would provide 50 Chatham-Kent businesses outside of the current BIA districts with the opportunity to apply for a $2,500 grant to further their digital and ecommerce technology.
“Economic Development Services staff would provide the same training and follow the same criteria as the existing DMS program to maintain consistency,” he said.
“With lessons learned from the current pandemic and the unknown of health and safety measures going forward, local businesses will be looking for effective and profitable methods to recover and move forward in the new retail and service world.”
McFadden added: “Newly developed or heightened digital presence will enhance the ongoing viability and sustainability (resiliency) of both new and long-standing businesses. As businesses adjust to the new operating conditions due to COVID-19, the need to transition online is crucial to future financial sustainability. Through feedback and social media, many business owners have indicated that funding is necessary with pivoting their business model.”
Read McFadden’s full report, here.
The recommendation is set to be discussed at the electronic meeting on Monday, December 7, 2020.
Monday’s Council meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m.
It can be LIVE streamed, here.