Funding will be tripled for a platform designed to help local businesses develop or expand their online services for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Mayor John Tory.
On Thursday, the mayor said the expansion of Digital Main Street program is part of the Economic Support and Recovery Task Force’s short-term economic support and recovery plan for Toronto’s businesses.
The budget for the program will be tripled from $240,000 to $825,000 this year and the funding will be used to expand the Digital Service Squad to support Toronto’s main street businesses through one-on-one virtual support.
Since its launch in 2016, the program has engaged more than 6,000 Toronto businesses and provided direct one-on-one support to 2,159 businesses, delivering more than 9,200 hours of support, training, and education.
Prior to working with the Digital Main Street program, 30% of businesses had no online presence, but now do and an additional 66% of businesses expanded their existing online presence.
“Digital Main Street has helped businesses with everything from their websites and social media, to launching e-commerce platforms,” Tory said. We’re expanding this program at a critical time for Toronto businesses by tripling the funding. I am doing everything I can as mayor to help our small businesses get through this, to advocate for them to other governments, and to make sure the city is there to support them.”
“The expansion of this program is just one example of work the City of Toronto is doing, in full cooperation with our partners in the provincial and federal governments, business community, and non-profit sector, to minimize the impact of this terrible virus and to see an economic recovery take place as soon as possible.”
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The program offers a range of ways for businesses to embrace digital transformation virtually, including online tools, connections to trusted digital vendors, structured online learning and a Digital Service Squad, who provide one-on-one assistance to help businesses grow and manage their operations.
Digital Main Street was formed by the City of Toronto and the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) to assist main street businesses in growing their operations through technology with easy to use tools and resources. The program is also supported by Google, Mastercard, Shopify, and Microsoft.
Working with TABIA and other community partners, the program has helped small businesses with everything from websites and social media, to launching e-commerce platforms and using data to drive new business opportunities.