City leading regional initiative to help main street businesses strengthen online presence

City of St. Catharines press release –  The City of St. Catharines is leading a regional project that aims to help main street businesses enhance their online digital presence.

Working in partnership with 12 business improvement areas (BIAs) across Niagara, the City has received a $70,000 grant from Digital Main Street, a program funded by the Ontario Government and delivered by the Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA), to establish a Digital Service Squad that will provide digital 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.

“We are excited to launch this regional project as it will help enable local and independent businesses to compete in a market where having an online presence is an absolute necessity,” said Brian York, director of Economic Development and Government Relations. “With most consumers doing their research on products and services online before making a purchase, local business owners are faced with the challenge of attracting customers into their shops, particularly in our BIAs that are dependent on foot traffic. The aim of establishing a regional Digital Service Squad is to help make sure that these businesses have a digital footprint so that they can bring customers to their door.”

The Digital Main Street initiative, which originally began in Toronto as a way for main street businesses to adapt to new technologies and rapidly changing consumer behaviours, has expanded across the province to provide support through grants, training, and resources to small main street businesses.

“Our government is committed to helping small businesses improve their competitiveness, create jobs and attract investment,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “That’s why I’m so pleased that businesses across Niagara Region will benefit from the expertise of a Digital Service Squad to help small businesses embrace digital technology. Our investment in the Digital Main Street program will help to ensure that Ontario is open for business and open for jobs.”

“The training that businesses across Niagara region will receive will help them to compete in our digital world,” said Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West. “Digital Service Squads will provide the training they’ll need to modernize their businesses.”

The Digital Service Squad that will implement the project will be led by St. Catharines Economic Development staff in cooperation with 12 BIAs and business associations in St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, and Port Colborne. The project is slated to begin this September as the Digital Service Squad begins its outreach to businesses and will include an opportunity for business owners to apply for a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant also being offered by Digital Main Street.

“The City of St. Catharines and its regional partners are among the municipalities that are leading the way in using the power of Digital Main Street to help keep their downtown cores vibrant and strong,” said Kay Matthews, executive director of the Ontario BIA Association. “Our small main street businesses are a critical contributor to Ontario’s economic, social and cultural well-being, and it’s vital that we work together to ensure their success. Digital Main Street will help the main street small businesses in the Niagara Peninsula compete in an increasingly digital world.”

For more information on the program, visit https://digitalmainstreet.ca/ontario/