Future Proofing Main Street pairs digital marketing expertise and student talent with brick-and-mortars
Main streets have always been an essential part of life in any community: a place to work, to buy local, and a place to celebrate. As commerce continues to shift online, we must enable main street businesses with innovative tools to future-proof and thrive.
With Ontario’s economy reopening, the federal and provincial governments have joined together to help small businesses make digital transformations — both to recover and generate revenue through a pan-Ontario collaborative project.
This morning, the Hon. Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for The Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), and the Hon. Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, announced a $57-million investment to help main street businesses and SMEs across the region adopt digital technologies to compete now and in the future.
The investments in Digital Main Street, including the new Future Proofing Main Street delivered by TechAlliance and Regional Innovation Centres, will help Southwestern Ontario businesses adapt to evolving customer demand.
“Main street businesses have been catapulted into the future of commerce, and we all have a responsibility to support their entry into the innovation economy in pursuit of our region’s recovery,” said Christina Fox, CEO of TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario. “The Future Proofing Main Street initiative allows brick-and-mortars to amplify their global market reach, while offering brand-loyal customers technology-enabled solutions to continue shopping local.”
“TechAlliance remains founder-focused, building tomorrow’s globally competitive innovation economy that enables entrepreneurship, spurs accelerated growth, and attracts ambitious talent and new companies.,” Fox continued. “This investment by the federal and provincial governments connects main street entrepreneurs with tech-native talent and puts a contemporary playbook in their hands. These collisions are critical for their continued resiliency and competitiveness through transition.”
“Main street businesses have been catapulted into the future of commerce, and we all have a responsibility to support their entry into the innovation economy in pursuit of our region’s recovery.”
Christina Fox, CEO, TechAlliance
“As local economies across Ontario reopen, we’re focused on ensuring that our main streets don’t just survive, but thrive. These businesses are the backbone of our economy, a source of local jobs – and local pride,” said Minister Joly. “Thanks to the expanded Digital Main Street platform, they’ll be able to expand their offerings and take advantage of more and more people shopping online. Our message to Ontario’s small businesses, and those whose livelihoods rely on them, is clear: we’re working with you to support good jobs and help our economy come back stronger than ever.”
“These businesses are the backbone of our economy, a source of local jobs – and local pride.“
Hon. Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for The Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario)
The new investments in Digital Main Street will extend direct support to businesses across the province as they adapt to a digital economy and introduce the new Future-Proofing Main Street program, for businesses in Southwestern Ontario.
“Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and their economic recovery is critical to Ontario’s recovery. The COVID-19 pandemic saw thousands of small businesses across the province close their doors and halt business as many had no ability to shift sales or services online,” said Associate Minister Sarkaria. “I am very pleased, that together with Minister Joly and our federal partners, we are providing small businesses with the tools they need to not only adapt to the challenges of today, but to re-establish, recover and flourish throughout this phased reopening and into the future.”
“We are providing small businesses with the tools they need to not only adapt to the challenges of today, but to re-establish, recover and flourish throughout this phased reopening and into the future.
Hon. Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction
This investment includes $12.2 million from the Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario, and will expand the existing Digital Main Street and ShopHERE programs and introduce the new Future Proofing Main Street Program, for 5,200 businesses in Southwestern Ontario.
With the expansion, Digital Main Street will offer three levels of support, tailored to the needs of businesses. TechAlliance will deliver advanced-level, future-proof support to main street businesses in the retail, hospitality, and service sectors to complement their brick-and-mortar experience with a robust online presence.
Local digital marketing expertise, paired with student talent, will work with companies to provide customized support in developing global market strategies, contemporary digital marketing, advanced ecommerce capabilities, and brand experiences.
By collaborating with local BIA’s, Chambers, Economic Development and Small Business Centres in London-Middlesex, Sarnia-Lambton, Elgin, Oxford, and Huron Countries, and by partnering with Regional Innovation Centres in Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, Halton, Hamilton, Niagara, and Windsor, we will ensure that businesses in all of our communities can compete now and in the future.
Together, these partners offer expertise in business improvement, technology, innovation, marketing, and economic development to deliver Digital Main Street, shopHERE, and Future Proofing Main Street to 5,200 small- and medium-sized businesses, while creating summer and fall employment for over 725 students, across Southwestern Ontario.
Download this announcement as a PDF.
- The Digital Main Street Platform is funded by both the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.
- Support through the Digital Main Street Platform will be offered in three tiers customized to the level of support required by each company to develop or strengthen their online presence.
- Partners involved in this project offer a wealth of expertise ranging from business improvement, technology, innovation, marketing and economic development. Therefore, they are best suited to deliver this widespread support and make the greatest possible impact across the region.
- TechAlliance will provide advanced level support to future-proof main street businesses 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.
- Local students and digital marketing experts will work with the companies to provide tailored support in developing global market strategies and advanced digital marketing for main street businesses that have deployed ecommerce.
“In southern Ontario, the stores along downtown streets are critical to a city’s identity. FedDev Ontario and its partners will offer the support these businesses need to rebuild and retool in the digital world, while providing valuable work experience to students that may have been displaced from other opportunities by the pandemic.”
Kate Young, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (FedDev Ontario)
“The global marketplace is rapidly changing, and in order to compete and succeed Ontario must adapt. By using innovative tools and technologies, the Digital Main Street program will help our businesses in expanding their reach to meet new markets and adjust to the new realities of doing business during the pandemic and into the next phase of economic recovery.”
The Honourable Victor Fedeli, Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade
“Main street businesses are an absolutely vital component of Southwestern Ontario’s economic recovery, so too are the innovators and student talent who will support their strategic digital transformation through Future-Proofing Main Street. I applaud our government partners for funding this strategic and highly impactful initiative, and for engaging the right partners, like TechAlliance, to ensure main street entrepreneurs have attractive and effective online storefronts to leverage customer loyalty and increase web-driven revenue. This will ensure we keep them contributing to vibrant, local streetscapes and neighbourhoods for generations to come.”
Mayor Ed Holder, City of London
“Because of COVID-19, businesses in downtowns across the province, reliant on foot traffic and regular customers, have experienced significant revenue declines. Digital Main Street and the engagement of TechAlliance is key as our companies pivot to ecommerce and digital sales models to sustain themselves, now and into the future.”
Barb Maly, Executive Director, Downtown London
“Hyde Park businesses have been significantly impacted, but an expanded Digital Main Street with Future Proofing will help businesses overcome barriers to market growth that seemed insurmountable with the onset of the pandemic. We are optimistic that the enhanced program and collaboration with TechAlliance will be an important tool as we work together for the survival and future of London businesses.”
Donna Szpakowski, CEO & General Manager, Hyde Park BIA
“Featherfields has been in business in Hyde Park for 24 years, and as the new owner I wanted our online presence to reflect our much-loved brick and mortar shop,” said Ashley Satchell, who recently accessed a Digital Main Street grant to give the long-time local favorite retailer a digital refresh. “Our previous online presence was outdated and didn’t reflect our brand. The Digital Main Street grant provided us with the investment to modernize our online storefront and engage our customers from home during these last few months of COVID-19.”
Ashley Satchell, Owner, Featherfields, Hyde Park London