Photo By: Roberto Cortese from Unsplash

The city of St. Catharines is preparing for the return of its Digital Main Street program which offers support to small businesses in expanding their digital reach and online presence.

Digital Main Street is built around an online learning platform, structured training programs, and the Digital Service Squad, a team of qualified professionals who help participating businesses grow and manage their operations through technology. This year’s program will see the city extending its support to more businesses across the entire community, in addition to providing the opportunity to receive a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant.

 “After two successful years of running the program in St. Catharines, we are excited to expand the opportunities and services of Digital Main Street 3.0 to small businesses across our city,” said Brian York, Director of Economic Development and Government Relations in St. Catharines. “There have been numerous successes for businesses who have received the Digital Transformation Grant or who have adopted new technologies with the help of our Digital Service Squad, so we are hopeful that more businesses will continue to benefit from this program.”

Last year, many entrepreneurs with brick-and-mortar businesses across the Niagara Region made use of the program to help them survive during the lockdowns by setting up online stores and learning how to reach new customers through social media. All this is made possible thanks to grants from Digital Main Street’s Ontario Grant Program, the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA), and the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade.

“In the past 17 months, as small businesses across the province fought to stay open and keep customers engaged online, Digital Service Squads were there to help,” said Kay Matthews, Executive Director of the OBIAA. “[Our teams] jumped online themselves during the lockdowns to help virtually, and businesses have consistently told us how important they were to their success through the pandemic. We are thrilled to support the St. Catharines squad and help them provide assistance to even more small businesses than ever.” 

Grant applications are now open and will continue to be accepted until Oct. 31, 2021. Successful applicants will receive the grant upon completion of a digital assessment and online training.

Digital Main Street will also re-launch its ShopHERE program, designed to create online stores for independent small businesses and artists. This program is free of charge for all interested and eligible entrepreneurs, as it is funded by the federal government, the province of Ontario and a number of local sponsors. Included when registering with the program are one-on-one supports with building and launching an online store, advertising credits for Facebook and a free Canadian domain registration.

“Ontario small businesses are the heart of our neighbourhoods and the economic foundation of our communities,” said Nina Tangri, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction for Ontario. “Our government is committed to being there for them as they reopen. This additional support will give these businesses the digital boost they need to raise their profile and rebuild better than ever.”

Individuals who desire to learn more about Digital Main Street and the Digital Transformation Grant are encouraged to visit their website here. For a full list of eligibility requirements and to register for the ShopHERE program click here.