City receives grant to help local businesses go digital

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City of St. Catharines press release – The City of St. Catharines is reintroducing its Digital Service Squad to help main street small businesses enhance their digital presence thanks to a $72,659 grant from Digital Main Street. Funding for the grant was provided by FedDev Ontario, a federal program.

As small businesses adapt to the challenges posed by COVID-19, enhancing their digital presence is more important than ever.

“We are so pleased to once again host the Digital Service Squad Program as it has proven to be a timely initiative and an important part of our recovery efforts to support businesses in our main street areas,” said Brian York, director of Economic Development and Government Relations. “Small businesses are facing overwhelming challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have had to adapt quickly. The Digital Service Squad program is part of a concerted effort to provide targeted support to small businesses and help shorten the learning curve that comes with getting their business online.”

Digital Service Squads were first launched in St. Catharines in 2019 as part of a City-led effort to support businesses in Business Improvement Areas across Niagara. The new program will focus its efforts on downtown St. Catharines, Port Dalhousie, Facer Street and Queenston Street.

Established in 2018, Digital Main Street Ontario was recently extended thanks to an investment of $42.5 million from the Federal Economic Development Agency forSouthern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and $7.45 million from the Ontario Ministry for Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT). The nearly $50-million investment will help small businesses across Ontario to pivot their operations to include online business models, regain lost revenue and become more resilient and competitive as the economy recovers. The Ontario BIA Association administers the DMS grant program to Ontario’s main street small businesses.

“Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the keystone of our economic recovery. 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,” said the Honourable Mélanie Joly, minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. “Congratulations to St. Catharines on the launch of your Digital Service Squad. The work you’re doing with small businesses in your community will help keep our main streets vibrant, support local jobs and help our economy come back strong.”

A fundamental part of Digital Main Street’s success, Digital Service Squads are teams of trained specialists who meet with small businesses, at no cost, to help them improve their online presence. The squads assist with several activities, including developing a Google My Business profile, enhancing their social media presence and providing support for basic website and e-commerce set-up. 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).

“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. “We know
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 Ontario are providing funding to extend this important program to help businesses in communities like St. Catharines.”

For more information on the program, visit www.digitalmainstreet.ca/ontariogrants