Five Leeds Grenville Digital Service Squads (DSS) have received a $145,000 grant from Digital Main Street’s Ontario Grants Program (OGP) to continue helping area businesses improve their online presence. North Grenville will receive $35,000, while the Leeds Grenville Economic Development Office is receiving $35,000 and will coordinate a squad on behalf of Athens, Elizabethtown-Kitley, Front of Yonge, Merrickville-Wolford, Rideau Lakes and Westport; in partnership with Leeds and the Thousands Islands and Gananoque (receiving $8,500); Prescott, Augusta and Edwardsburgh Cardinal (receiving $30,000); and Brockville (receiving $36,000). In Brockville, there is a partnership with the City, the Brockville and District Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Brockville BIA.
“Ontario small businesses are the heart of our neighbourhoods and the economic foundation of our communities,” Ontario’s Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Nina Tangri said during the program’s official launch at Westport’s Cove Country Inn.
The Minister was introduced by Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark. They were joined by Leeds Grenville Warden Roger Haley and Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) Executive Director Kay Matthews, as well as area Mayors, staff and members of the business community. “Leeds Grenville is excited to receive further funding to continue assisting small businesses,” said Warden Haley, adding the new funding announced will keep the program in place until February 2022. It has been extremely successful since its first launch last fall and it’s helping our small businesses recover from the pandemic and to stay competitive in today’s digital world.”
Squads meet with brick-and-mortar small businesses at no cost to help them complete an online assessment and introduce them to online training modules to build their knowledge and skills. These experts can also assist businesses with developing their Digital Transformation Plan and applying for a one-time $2,500 grant to implement it.
“In the past 14 months, as small businesses across the province fought to stay open and keep customers engaged online, Digital Service Squads were there to help,” said OBIAA’s Kay Matthews. “Squads jumped online themselves during lockdowns to help virtually, and businesses have consistently told us how important the DSS were to their success through the pandemic. We are thrilled to support Leeds Grenville and help them provide assistance to even more small businesses than ever.”
Renewed government funding of the OGP, including investment from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, will provide 3,000 Digital Transformation Grants to qualified brick-and-mortar small businesses as well as Digital Service Squad grants for organizations to provide hands-on assistance to local small businesses. The OGP is administrated by the OBIAA, in partnership with the Toronto Association of BIAs (TABIA).
This one-on-one DSS assistance also includes support for basic website set-up, Google My Business profiles, 360o photos, social media presence, and much more. The DSS can also provide information on the ShopHERE program, if applicable, to assist with digital storefront set-up and e-commerce. Where COVID-19 restrictions are in place, DSS experts can provide support through phone and video tools such as Zoom.
Squads will be visiting small businesses in hamlets, villages and towns across the region. For details on the Leeds Grenville program, visit www.investleedsgrenville.com/digitalmainstreet.