It aims to help businesses in the city and across Ontario embrace technology in response to the pandemic with latest plans including a community collaboration and innovation programme.
Toronto has recruited Intuit Quickbooks and Facebook Canada as two new funding partners to help expand its Digital Main Street programme. The programme aims to help businesses in the city and across Ontario embrace technology in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The city is also launching three new Digital Main Street programmes as a result of funding from the Province of Ontario and FedDev Ontario.
The further expansion of the Digital Main Street programme is a part of the mayor’s Economic Support and Recovery Task Force’s short-term support and recovery plan for Toronto’s businesses.
Deputy mayor Michael Thompson, chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee, said the added support of Facebook and Intuit will significantly expand Digital Main Street’s ability to bring main street businesses the up-to-date insights and technology tools they need to thrive in our radically altered economy.
The three new programmes being launched are Transformation Teams, the Digital Main Street Lab and a Community Collaboration programme which will help main street business communities adapt and future-proof their businesses.
Transformation Teams: will offer individual main street businesses a customised business transformation plan and implementation support at no cost. Businesses will work with an interdisciplinary team of marketing professionals, web designers and creators to help update their business model, develop their digital transformation plan, and implement the plan in up to six weeks.
“The continued expansion of the Digital Main Street programme provides Toronto’s small businesses with the opportunity to not just survive but to thrive under the challenges brought on by the current pandemic”
Digital Main Street Lab: designed to bring technology companies and communities together to pilot technologies that offer innovative support to main street businesses. Collaborations will be provided with up to $25,000 in funding to help implement pilot projects that offer technological improvements to local business communities. Applications are being accepted until 31 October 2020 and can be submitted at Digital Main Street Lab.
One identified collaboration includes the City of Toronto and the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), which will work with the Beach Village BIA and West Queen West BIA to pilot a new community retail model with Toronto-based tech company Hubba.
This pilot project will include opportunities to help small businesses improve their local retail sales by giving them access to new and unique products to sell to their customers, while testing unique local commerce business models and new technology.
Community Collaboration programme: will focus on solving the big challenges facing main street. It aims to bring together Toronto’s innovation community with the main street business community to identify challenges and work together to create solutions that will help future proof main street for years to come.
“Digital Main Street has proven to be a successful programme that is helping businesses across this city expand their offerings and to help them get online so that they can broaden their customer base,” said mayor John Tory.
He added: “The continued expansion of the Digital Main Street programme provides Toronto’s small businesses with the opportunity to not just survive but to thrive under the challenges brought on by the current pandemic.”
Digital Main Street was created by the City of Toronto and the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA). It has engaged more than 8,000 Toronto businesses and provided direct one-on-one support to more than 2,500 businesses, delivering some 12,000 hours of support, training and education. Prior to working with the programme, 30 per cent of businesses had no online presence. These businesses have now moved online and an additional 66 per cent of businesses expanded their online presence.
The programme is also supported by Google, Mastercard, Shopify and Microsoft.
As part of the City of Toronto and Digital Main Street’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, additional programmes were launched to support small businesses with their adoption of technology, including: ShopHERE, where small businesses and artists can receive a new online store built at no-cost to support their operations, and Digital Service Squad where small businesses can get one-on-one virtual help with setting up and using new technologies.
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