Peterborough Downtown BIA launches team to help small businesses adopt digital tools

Lien Vu, left, owner of T-Elle Boutique on Charlotte Street in Peterborough, works with Digital Service Squad member Yllka Bojku on her Digital Transformation Plan. Peterborough DBIA

A new three-member Digital Service Squad has been formed to help downtown Peterborough small businesses adopt digital technology amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, the Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) announced it has received a $53,000 grant from Digital Main Street Ontario to form a three-member squad to help small downtown businesses adapt and use online tools and processes.

Digital Main Street is funded by the Ontario government and delivered by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA).

Read more: Technology is a key to recovery for area businesses: Kawartha Lakes task force

The Digital Service Squad will be accessible to more than 500 downtown and central-area businesses in Peterborough. The Digital Service Squads are teams of “street-level” experts that help small businesses manage and grow their operations through technology adoption. They will also assist businesses in applying for grants to support their online training and the development of digital transformation plans.

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“Going digital is key to the long-term success of our local downtown businesses, especially in the current economic situation,” said Terry Guiel, Peterborough DBIA executive director. “Adding digital aspects to the bricks and mortar character of our downtown business community keeps it relevant, accessible and competitive.

“Thanks to Digital Main Street Ontario for both the program and the grant. We know many of our businesses will get through this difficult time stronger and more prepared for the future.”

Digital Main Street recently received a new round of funding of $42.5 million from the government of Canada’s Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, a national COVID-19 recovery initiative delivered by Canada’s regional development agencies.

Mélanie Joly, minister of economic development and official languages and minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for southern Ontario, said 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,” she stated.

“Congratulations to the Peterborough Downtown BIA on the launch of your Digital Service Squad. 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.”

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Kay Matthews, executive director of the OBIAA, says the COVID-19 pandemic hit Ontario’s main streets hard.

“Digital Main Street is needed more than ever,” said Matthews. “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 like Peterborough.”

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