Toronto Region Board of Trade launches program to help Ontario businesses go digital

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The free, new online business support program is designed to help Ontario businesses adapt to a more digital world during and post-COVID-19.

The program is part of the Toronto Board of Trade’s Reimagining Recovery Framework.

The Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Recovery Activation Program (RAP), sponsored by the federal and provincial governments, will connect Ontario businesses of all sizes to industry experts for guidance, mentorship, practical advice regarding process modernization and end-to-end digital transformation.

Social distancing measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 have heightened the importance of digital capacity for businesses. The RAP is designed to help equip Ontario businesses to survive COVID-19 and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

“The RAP is a direct response to what we’re hearing from our members and the business community at large: digital tools and services are crucial to success, but challenging to implement,” said Jan De Silva, president and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

The RAP will focus on digital modernization, technological hardware, structural and regulatory alignment, and digital restructure financing. It will provide networking opportunities, access training, mentoring, and support from current practitioners and leaders in their respective fields.

The program is part of the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Reimagining Recovery Framework, its plan to renew business activity and “reimagine” Ontario’s future economy.

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“The governments’ investment in this program will result in the digital transformation of thousands of businesses who will now be in a position to shore up their current business offerings, create new business opportunities and explore new markets,” said De Silva.

Funding for the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s program is being provided by the federal government, through FedDev Ontario, and Ontario, through the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. The two levels of government have contributed $7.5 million and $200,000 to the program, respectively.

“Thanks to this major investment [these businesses] will be able to expand their offerings and seize the many opportunities presented by online commerce,” Mélanie Joly, Canada’s minister of economic development and official languages.

The federal funding is part of a broader move to support businesses as they adapt to a more digital world. The larger initiative includes Digital Main Street, which recently received $50 million in federal funding through FedDev Ontario and $7.6 million from the Ontario government towards its $2,500 grant program to enable small businesses to purchase new technology, and ShopHERE, a project that aims to help Toronto’s independent businesses build and optimize online stores at no cost.

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The RAP will serve businesses across the province, including small and medium-sized firms in Northern Ontario.

Ontario’s investment will allow the Toronto Region Board of Trade to use the province’s network of partners to ensure at least half of RAP participants are based outside of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

“As thousands of small businesses across the province closed their doors and halted business during the COVID-19 outbreak, many struggled to shift sales or services online,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario’s associate minister of small business and red tape reduction. “Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and their recovery is critical to Ontario’s recovery.”

The RAP is currently accepting applications. Its first cohort will run through July 2020.

Image source Unsplash. Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters.

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh is a journalist interested in telling Canadian business and tech stories. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.