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Innovate Niagara and regional innovation partners to help ‘futureproof businesses’ in Ontario - innovate niagara

Innovate Niagara and regional innovation partners to help ‘futureproof businesses’ in Ontario


Program will match digital marketing expertise to 5,200 small businesses, ensuring their long-term success in the post-COVID world
NIAGARA, ON., June 11, 2020 – Innovate Niagara has been selected to help deliver Digital Main Street programming across the province. As part of a $57-million investment announced today by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) and the Province of Ontario, Innovate Niagara will work with its regional innovation partners Communitech, WEtech Alliance, TechAlliance, Innovation Guelph, Innovation Factory, and Haltech to support 5,200 small businesses and create more than 700 jobs for co-op students in the Southwestern part of the Province.

Digital Main Street, led by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association, is an initiative focused on helping small and medium-sized businesses in the retail, hospitality, and trade/service sectors to adopt digital business models. Innovate Niagara and its partners will add a new ‘Futureproofing businesses’ program to the Digital Main Street offering, helping firms to leverage e-commerce solutions and adapt their businesses to regain lost revenue and become more resilient and competitive as the economy recovers.

“Innovate Niagara has been helping companies start, grow and succeed for 12 strong years,” says Jeff Chesebrough, CEO at Innovate Niagara. “With critical support from FedDev Ontario, we are proud to collaborate with our fellow regional innovation centres to help future-proof businesses across the province through the Digital Main Street program. The program will help businesses evolve and adapt to the realities of today’s economic climate and will aid in Niagara’s economic recovery. We are eager to start helping businesses build their online presence and e-commerce platforms so they can thrive.”

Earlier today, 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 in two main programs to help main street businesses and SMEs across the region adopt digital technologies to compete now and in the future.

“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.”

The new investments in Digital Main Street will extend direct support to businesses across the province as they adapt to a digital economy.

“Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and their recovery is critical to Ontario’s recovery. As thousands of small businesses across the province closed their doors and halted business during the COVID-19 outbreak, many struggled 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 recover and flourish as Ontario reopens.”

Throughout its history, Innovate Niagara has worked with tech-enabled businesses from Niagara, and is proud to now expand its reach to help traditional businesses digitally transform and become tech-enabled. Through Digital Main Street, Innovate Niagara and its partners will work with 5,200 small businesses across Southwestern Ontario over the next nine months.

With the unprecedented challenges our business community is facing, the Digital Main Street program has proven to be both timely and effective. Businesses are being forced to find innovative ways to adapt to this new economic reality,” said St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik. “We are proud to support Innovate Niagara as they launch the Advanced Level Support Program that will help futureproof main street businesses by accelerating their digital growth opportunities. This announcement builds upon the strong foundation of the efforts of the Digital Service Squad, which the City of St. Catharines launched in 2019.

"COVID-19 has created an urgent need for Niagara businesses to ramp up their online presence,” said Jim Bradley, Niagara Regional Chair. “Working with Innovate Niagara, this FedDev Ontario funding will strengthen Niagara’s economy and leverage the Digital Main Street Initiative to empower our small and medium-sized businesses as they adopt the digital tools they need to succeed.

Businesses will be able to apply at https://digitalmainstreet.ca.


Catherine Rice
Outreach and Communications
Innovate Niagara

About Innovate Niagara
Innovate Niagara is a Regional Innovation Centre. Our mission is clear: we exist to support innovative entrepreneurs and companies from a variety of industries start, grow and thrive. Becoming a client gives entrepreneurs access to valuable services and resources including, business advice and mentorship, market intelligence, tech incubation, events and workshops.