The Hamilton Business Centre, in partnership with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, announced it received a $150,000 grant from Digital Main Street Ontario for a Digital Service Squad (DSS) to help downtown small businesses improve their online capabilities.
According to an official media release, Digital Service Squads will support small businesses through their digital journey and will be visiting small businesses in Hamilton’s 13 Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), as well as commercial corridors.
Funding for the grant is provided by the federal government.
“The Hamilton Business Centre is once again excited to be a part of the Digital Main Street programming and will have the opportunity to help small main street businesses in the community with digital transformation,” said Kristin Huigenbos, Hamilton Business Centre Coordinator.
“Earlier this year, the Hamilton Business Centre was proud to share the news that over 100 Digital Transformation Grants $285,000 were given to over 100 local businesses in Hamilton, Ancaster, Stoney Creek, Waterdown and Dundas. In addition, over 300 local businesses were assisted in their digital transformation by Digital Main Street programs.”
Established in 2018, the Digital Main Street Ontario 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 is expected to 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.
The Ontario BIA Association administers the DMS grant program for Ontario’s main street small business.
“Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the keystone of our economic recovery,” said Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
“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 the City of Hamilton 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.”
Through the program, trained specialists meet with small businesses, at no cost, to help them improve their online presence. It includes assistance with a number of activities, including developing a Google My Business profile, enhancing their social media presence, and supporting basic website and e-commerce set-ups.
Squads are also expected to 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 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 like Hamilton.”
(Cover photo credit: City of Hamilton)