The Sarnia‐Lambton Economic Partnership will again be providing a Digital Service Squad (DSS) to help businesses across the region to utilize digital technologies to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. The DSS will be funded with a $60,000 grant from Digital Main Street Ontario and provided by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

“Building on a successful four months with the Digital Service Squad program in 2019, through collaboration with community partners, we are thrilled to expand our reach to assist businesses across the Sarnia‐Lambton area in 2020/2021,” said Sarnia‐Lambton Economic Partnership’s Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Thompson. “Local businesses are critical to our communities, and this program will help ensure they continue to thrive by leveraging digital technologies and online best practices.

Established in 2018, Digital Main Street Ontario had recently extended thanks to an investment of $42.5 million from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and $7.45 million from the Ontario Ministry for Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT). The nearly $50‐million investment will help small businesses across Ontario to pivot their operations to include online business models, regain lost revenue and become more resilient and competitive as the economy recovers. The Ontario BIA Association administers the DMS grant program to Ontario’s main street small businesses.

“Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the keystone of our economic recovery. That is why we have invested in Digital Main Street to help these enterprises adapt to doing business in a digital world, and take advantage of the record number of people shopping online. Congratulations to Sarnia‐Lambton on the launch of your Digital Service Squad,” said the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. “The work you’re doing with small businesses in your community will help keep our main streets vibrant, support good, local jobs and help our economy come back strong.”

Digital Service Squads are fundamental to Digital Main Street’s design and success, with trained specialists who meet with small businesses, at no cost, to help them improve their online presence. The squads assist with a number of activities, including developing a Google My Business profile, enhancing their social media presence and providing support for basic website and e‐commerce set‐up. Squads will also assist qualified small businesses through the application process for a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant, which includes an online assessment, online training modules and the development of a Digital Transformation Plan (DTP).

“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 Ontario are providing the funding to extend this important program to help businesses in communities across Sarnia‐Lambton.”