FedDev Ontario and partners to support nearly 23,000 Ontario businesses to go digital


June 11, 2020

Today, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, announced that the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA), the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Toronto Region Board of Trade will receive a combined $50 million Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) investment through FedDev Ontario. The Government of Ontario is contributing an additional $7.65 million to support this project.

Working together, these key partners will deliver targeted supports to over 22,900 small- and medium-sized businesses across Ontario to embrace digital technologies as we increasingly shift to online solutions. This investment will also create jobs for more than 1,400 students.

The strategic partners involved in this project have a broad reach to tens of thousands of the region’s businesses. They offer a wealth of expertise ranging from business improvement, technology, innovation, marketing and economic development. This means they are well-suited to deliver this widespread support and to have the most impact across the province. Support will be offered through two main platforms.

Digital Main Street Platform offers three levels of support, tailored to the needs of businesses:

  1. Entry Level Support –OBIAA will provide services to main street small businesses at the initial stages of developing an online presence. This level will support up to 2,750 businesses in communities across Ontario. Through this project, non-repayable contributions will be provided to both Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), chambers of commerce and municipalities to establish local digital service squads that work with businesses to develop a digital transformation plan. Contributions of $2,500 will also be provided directly to main street small businesses to support the cost of implementing elements of their transformation plan.
  2. Intermediate Level Support –This level builds on the “ShopHERE” model — a TABIA, and City of Toronto initiative building on TABIA’s existing Digital Main Street program. ShopHERE is focused on building online storefronts for local independent businesses and artists—by broadening its reach across Ontario. This level deploys students to build online stores and provides initial support for operating these stores as well as related digital marketing. This level is being delivered by TABIA, Communitech and Invest Ottawa and will support an estimated 16,450 businesses.
  3. Advanced Level Support –This level aims to future-proof main street through sustained and specialized engagement with main street firms in the retail, restaurant/hospitality, and services/trades sectors that have an established online presence and are looking to accelerate their digital growth. Students and local experts will work with these companies to provide tailored support in developing global market strategies and advanced digital marketing. Students will also benefit from networking, mentoring and specialized training provided by Communitech, Invest Ottawa, TABIA and regional innovation centres across Ontario. This level will support an estimated 2,700 businesses.

Recovery Activation Program (RAP):

The Toronto Region Board of Trade will provide intensive training for over 1,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises to digitize their operations. This support will be provided to businesses from across Ontario, with at least half of participating firms to be located outside of the Greater Toronto Area. With assistance from an extensive network of chambers of commerce, industry associations and program delivery partners, RAP will include training in areas such as supply chain management, IT and customer acquisition. With more than 13,500 members and strategic partnerships, the Toronto Region Board of Trade is one of the largest chambers of commerce in North America, driving economic growth and competitiveness through advocacy, resource sharing and business supports. 

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News Release: FedDev Ontario and partners to assist nearly 23,000 Ontario businesses in embracing online commerce

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Quotes from Project Partners and from stakeholders
Quotes from Project Partners
"We created the Recovery Activation Program as a direct response to what we're hearing from our members and the business community at large: digital tools and services are crucial to success, but challenging to implement alone. The federal government's investment in RAP makes them a valuable partner in helping businesses overcome these challenges, enabling us to significantly expand the program's reach and offer it completely free to enterprises across the province."
Jan De Silva, President and CEO, the Toronto Region Board of Trade
"OBIAA commends FedDev Ontario for this sound investment in our main streets. We look forward to expanding the already successful Digital Main Street program, as created and managed by TABIA. Our main street small businesses have been severely impacted over the past many weeks. Together we will begin the task of recovery with direct support to main street small businesses through Digital Service Squads and Digital Transformation Grants."
Kay Matthews, Executive Director, Ontario Business Improvement Area Association
"Helping move small business from bricks and mortar to bricks and clicks has been our goal since consumers' shopping habits started to shift online. These unprecedented times have only amplified this need. With the help and support of this announcement and commitments by an unprecedented number of corporate partners, companies, educational institutions and volunteers, we are that much closer to making Ontario's small businesses more resilient and prepared to face the future."
John J. Kiru, Executive Director, Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas
"Building on critical support from our federal government, we are honoured to collaborate with FedDev Ontario and partners across the province to help future-proof our main street business and economy. This new program will help companies to evolve, maintain jobs and revenue in any storm, and continue to operate and grow in any economic climate. It will equip business owners from every walk of life with new digital business models and strategies, helping them to access new domestic and global markets and drive our economic recovery."
Michael Tremblay, President and CEO, Invest Ottawa and Bayview Yards
"Communitech has been helping companies start, grow and succeed for more than 20 years. We are proud to now help future-proof Ontario businesses through the Digital Main Street initiative. Alongside our regional innovation partners, we're ready to get to work and help businesses engage with their communities online, embrace e-commerce and reach new customers."
Iain Klugman, CEO and President, Communitech
Quotes from stakeholders in support of the project
"We are doing everything we can, in cooperation with the federal and provincial governments, to help businesses during these difficult times. Only by working together will we be able to address the enormous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the devastation to the economy. I'm proud that our federal and provincial partners have seen the value of our made-in-Toronto Digital Main Street program and I am pleased that it will now be available across Ontario. In Toronto, this additional investment will allow us to offer grants and a new program to help small businesses future-proof to become more resilient and competitive."
John Tory, Mayor of Toronto
"On behalf of the City of Ottawa, I want to thank the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario for this critical investment in small businesses across our region. I am delighted that Invest Ottawa will lead the delivery of this new program in the nation's capital and across Southeastern Ontario to help thousands of companies impacted by COVID-19 get online, build virtual business, and generate new revenues that strengthen our economy."
Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa
"During this pandemic, every day small businesses are physically closed is a lost opportunity, yet the digital world is always open-for-business. This snappy investment by the federal and provincial governments will greatly help 200 locals get back to business, with a proven partner in Communitech"."
Dave Jaworsky, Mayor of Waterloo

"Kitchener businesses have a long history of adapting to economic shifts to remain competitive and flourish. We are thrilled that Communitech and Digital Main Street will be launching additional supports to enable our businesses to remain strong and resilient as they work to recover during this Covid-19 pandemic period."
Berry Vrbanovic, Mayor of Kitchener

"The crisis has exposed the digital divide as small firms innovate and leverage new technologies with the aim of adapting to the virtual economy. These timely investments announced today by the federal and provincial governments will help us work with chambers and boards of trade across the province to provide training for our members through the Recovery Activation Program developed and executed by the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Today's announcement will help propel recovery and growth by accelerating the digital pivot so many need to undertake."
— Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce

"We're excited to continue working with Digital Main Street to provide independent businesses with the digital tools and resources they require to get online. The future of retail is changing, and while stages of reopening have started across Ontario, it's never been more important for businesses to establish a digital presence to enable an omni-channel experience for customers."
Roberto Faria, Senior Social Impact Manager, Shopify
"A digital presence brings businesses enormous opportunities for growth, innovation and jobs. This additional funding will ensure the ShopHERE powered by Google program can reach more Canadian small businesses, to help them navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead."
Sabrina Geremia, VP and Country Manager, Google Canada
"The pandemic has shown us that businesses and entrepreneurs need to be able to adapt quickly to the unexpected and ever-changing environments. Being part of a digital economy and offering services online is vital; and this is an important initiative that will certainly help local businesses with the tools they need to overcome recent and unforeseen challenges."
Kathryn McGarry, Mayor of City of Cambridge

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