Service squad looks to help small businesses go digital

The Digital Service Squad team: Irene Spisar (left), Audrey van der Zon, and Dave Birnie. September 23, 2020. (Photo courtesy of CK Economic Development).

A resource to help businesses improve their digital footprint has been revived, thanks to some recent funding.

The Chatham-Kent Small Business Centre and Economic Development received a $95,000 grant through the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) and the Digital Main Street program to launch the Digital Service Squad 2.0. Funding for the grant was provided by a federal program, FedDev Ontario.

“Round one of the program was a huge hit for businesses in Chatham-Kent and we are thrilled to be able to offer the service again through our Small Business Centre,” said Jamie Rainbird, manager of Chatham-Kent Economic Development. “The grant will allow us to run the program for several months, but time is limited so we’re asking businesses to take advantage of it as soon as possible.”

Members of the Digital Service Squad will help small business operators with several online activities at no cost. Business owners will also be given help to apply for a $2,500 Digital Transformation grant, which is open until the end of November.

Businesses in downtown areas of Chatham, Wallaceburg, Blenheim, Ridgetown, Tilbury, Dresden, Wheatley, and Thamesville should expect a visit from members of the Digital Service Squad.

“We invite business owners to reach out to the Small Business Centre to see if they qualify, this includes businesses that received the grant during the first round as they may also qualify again,” said Rainbird.

Funding toward the Digital Main Street program comes at a crucial time as many businesses are changing to an online model.

The Digital Main Street program expanded across the province in 2018 and has been extended by investments made through FedDev Ontario and the Ministry for Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT). The total funding investment to help small businesses in Ontario is nearly $50 million. The funding is distributed by the OBIAA.

“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 across Chatham-Kent.”

Details about the Chatham-Kent Small Business Centre and the Digital Service Squad can be found by clicking here. To apply for the Digital Transformation grant, a profile needs to be created on the Digital Main Street website, where an assessment and a training program will need to be completed.