The Ontario has announced a new $5.7-million in funding to help small businesses reach more customers, create and enhance their online presence, and generate jobs through an online platform called the "Digital Main Street".
It is intended to help up to 22,900 Ontario businesses create and enhance their online presence and generate jobs for more than 1,400 students.
Through the $57-million contribution to the Digital Main Street platform, businesses will be able to take advantage of three new programs to support their digital transformation:
- shopHERE powered by Google, intended to leverage Ontario's strengths by hiring highly skilled and trained students to build and support the launch of online stores for businesses that previously did not have the capacity to do so themselves. The core goal will be to help small businesses compete and grow, in a world that is increasingly online, and help them recover as quickly as possible following COVID-19.
- Digital Main Street Grant will help main street small businesses be digitally more effective. Through a $2,500 grant administered by the Ontario BIA Association, small businesses will be able to adopt new technologies and embrace digital marketing. Municipalities, Chambers of Commerce, and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) can apply for a Digital Service Squad grant, which will allow them to establish teams to provide personalized, one-on-one support.
- Future-Proofing Main Street will provide specialized and in-depth digital transformation services and support that helps existing main-street firms adapt to changes in their sector and thrive in the new economy. By leveraging teams of digital marketing professionals and talented students, these firms will be able to create new online business models, develop and implement digital and e-commerce marketing strategies, and maximize digital tools, platforms and content.
In addition, the Recovery Activation Program, operated through the Toronto Region Board of Trade, will help businesses grow and digitize their operations with custom consulting sessions, online resource sharing, learning webcasts and business planning. As a result of the investment announced today, the program will be offered province-wide and at no cost to businesses.
About 60 percent of Ontario's small enterprises have a website, and only seven percent have an online payment solution. Digitally, Canadian businesses are estimated to be two years behind their U.S. counterparts.
Along with the Digital Main Street platform, the province is investing an additional $150 million in rural broadband which will help open the digital road for many Ontario small businesses.
In addition, the province has proposed a ban on commercial evictions to help businesses that have been impacted by restrictions due to COVID-19.
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