Grimsby businesses get a digital boost with new online funding

·3 min read

Downtown Grimsby businesses looking to recover from the pandemic or transform their online operations will be able to take advantage of new funding now available.

Station 1 Coffeehouse on Main Street will be one of those businesses soon getting a digital upgrade as a part of funding from the Digital Main Street Ontario program.

Station 1 owner Chris Mindorff said he intends to apply for the $2,500 grant, and use it toward building a stronger online platform for his business.

“We are going to spend part of the funds on a digital media strategy, things like search optimization, basically improving being found on the web,” Mindorff said.

The second piece is going to be enhancing the website, and incorporating and online store and integrating social media channels.

The program was established in 2018, and recently extended after a combined $50-million investment from both the federal and province governments.

This will be the first year, however, that Grimsby businesses will be eligible for the Digital Main Street grant.

Adam Joon, economic development officer for the town, said the funding comes at a critical time for downtown businesses, as they look to adapt in the face of the pandemic.

“I think it is really to position businesses more for the digital age. Obviously given COVID, it is even more of an impact to our local businesses. People want to shop remotely when they can.”

Mindorff said he has similar plans for his Hamilton location, where he has already applied and been approved for the grant. He said that makes it easier for business owners to build and enhance their digital presence in an age where more businesses than ever are relying on their online operations for a significant part of their revenue.

“I think it is helpful to help the business themselves, because you are going to need someone with some expertise. Being able to have funds and to be able to lean on someone and say this is what I am trying to do, is really important.”

According to Joon, the town will be doing just that when it brings on its digital service squad. The service will be free to all qualifying businesses, and will provide local owners with advise on how their website, social media, or online store could be improved.

“This is an individual that is trained by the program, who will go into the downtown area, and work with the eligible businesses to give them advisory support.”

The Digital Main Street funding comes through a partnership with the town and the Downtown Improvement Association (DIA).

When it comes to Station 1 Coffeehouse, Mindorff said he plans to use the funding, if approved, to help other local businesses as well. Once a strategy has been put in place, he would look to hire local web design companies in Grimsby first.

“It will likely help some local digital agencies too,” he added.

Joon said his advice to other businesses in Grimsby looking to take advantage of the Digital Main Street funding is to apply sooner rather than later.

“The application window does close at the end of November, so we really want to underscore a call to action.”

For more information, interested business owners can visit digitalmainstreet.ca/ontariogrants.

STORY BEHIND THE STORY:With the town of Grimsby recently securing funding for local business grants through Digital Main Street, reporter Bryan Levesque spoke with both the town and a local business owner who hopes to use the funds to upgrade their online operations.

Bryan Levesque, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News