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Digital Service Squad coming to Barrie to assist small businesses

'Digital Main Street has proven to be effective in supporting small business at a time when many of them need it,' says Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman
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Metro Creative Connection

The City of Barrie, with support from the Downtown Barrie Business Association (BIA), have received a $50,000 grant from Digital Main Street Ontario for a Digital Service Squad (DSS) to help small businesses, primarily in the downtown area, improve their online presence.

Digital Service Squad members support small businesses through their digital journey. Funding for the grant is provided by FedDev Ontario, a federal program.

Stephannie Schlichter, Director Economic and Creative Development at the City of Barrie, notes, “Extending the Digital Main Street program allows us to continue to assist our Barrie business community recover and grow, amidst the pandemic.”

"Smart recovery programs help build capacity for businesses that can give them lasting strength. Digital Main Street has proven to be effective in supporting small business at a time when many of them need it,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman. “I'm delighted to see the program expanding here in Barrie."

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 will 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 Barrie 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.”

Digital Service Squads are fundamental to Digital Main Street’s design and success, with trained specialists who meet with small business, at no cost, to help them improve their online presence. The squads assist with a number of activities, including developing a Google My Business profile, enhancing their social media presence and providing support of basic website and e-commerce set-up.

Squads will also 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 Barrie.”