Thunder Bay Launches Digital Main Street Service Squad

$40,000 Digital Main Street Grant will help main street businesses improve online presence.

Friday October 11, 2019 – The Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) today announced a $40,000 grant they received from Digital Main Street (DMS) is being used to fund a Digital Service Squad to help main street small businesses improve their online capabilities. The CEDC in partnership with the Waterfront District BIA will manage the program on behalf of the two participating Business Improvement Areas (BIAs):  Waterfront District BIA, Fort William BIA, and 2 Business Associations: Westfort Village and the Bay & Algoma Business Association.

The grant is from the Ontario government as part of Digital Main Street to establish a Digital Service Squad to help small businesses in the BIA areas enhance their use of digital tools and techniques to better evolve and grow. Recently, Matt Christie was hired to be the specialist who will visit and assist BIA businesses at no cost to help them set up Google Business, conduct a digital-readiness assessment and apply for a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant.  Matt has started visiting businesses on October 2, 2019.

“We are very excited to be offering this program to Small Businesses in Thunder Bay.  Assisting local businesses grow and thrive is central to CEDC’s mission, vision and mandate for Thunder Bay,” said Ryan Moore, Development Officer for CEDC. “Thunder Bay’s small businesses are the backbones of our community and are a vital part of what make our city a thriving place to live, work and visit. Entrepreneurship bolsters our local economy. Thunder Bay is open for business, and we want to do everything that we can to help small business owners succeed.”

“It is great that the Waterfront District BIA has been able to work with Digital Main Street and the CEDC to hire a Digital Service Squad staff member in Thunder Bay,” said Jim Comuzzi, Chair of the Waterfront District BIA.  “As a BIA, any way we’re able to facilitate helping our small businesses is a success! It is wonderful to see so much growth with Thunder Bay main street small businesses. It will be even more of an uplift to help increase their digital presence!”

A joint program funded by the Government of Ontario and delivered by the Ontario BIA Association,Digital Main Street helps improve how small main street businesses use digital tools and techniques to become more successful. Today’s digital economy is vital to small businesses, and DMS will help them adopt new digital technologies from e-commerce and social media to back-office systems such as payroll and inventory.

“Our government is committed to helping small businesses improve their competitiveness, create jobs and attract investment,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “That’s why I’m so pleased that businesses in Thunder Bay will benefit from the expertise of a Digital Service Squad to help small businesses embrace digital technology.  Our investment in the Digital Main Street program will help to ensure that Ontario is open for business and open for jobs.”

Digital Main Street offers two types of grants:

  1. Digital Transformation Grant: There are 2,000 grants of $2,500 each available to qualifying small “main street” businesses across Ontario to help them adopt new digital technologies.
  2. Digital Service Squad Grant: There are 300 grants of $10,000 each available to qualifying municipal or business groups across Ontario to develop and implement local squads of digital vendors and experts to directly help small businesses.

“We are always excited to see a consortium of BIAs come together to take advantage of what Digital Main Street has to offer. Thunder Bay BIAs clearly understand the importance of digital technology and the power of Digital Main Street to help keep their main streets vibrant and strong,” said Kay Matthews, Executive Director of the Ontario BIA Association.  “Our small main street businesses are a critical contributor to Ontario’s economic, social and cultural health, and it’s vital that we work together to ensure their success. Digital Main Street will help the small downtown businesses in Thunder Bay compete in an increasingly digital world.” 

Businesses within the associated areas will be introduced to the Digital Service Squad over the coming weeks. For further information contact either Matt, Kara or Ryan (contact info below).

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Ryan Moore

Development Officer (Small Business), Thunder Bay CEDC | 807.625.3972

Kara Pratt

BIA Coordinator, The Waterfront District BIA |807.343.9032

Matt Christie

Digital Service Squad Member | 807.358.0350


About CEDC: The CEDC is responsible for business development, retention and expansion, entrepreneurial support, opportunity promotion, and the collection and assessment of key business data. The CEDC receives formal proposals for projects that will contribute to economic development. It responds quickly to new opportunities and initiatives to attract direct financial involvement from the government and private sectors. For more information, visit

About the Waterfront District BIA: Vibrant. Diverse. Inclusive. Thunder Bay’s Waterfront District provides a unique opportunity to experience the North Core’s dramatic revival. With dozens of small local businesses, the Waterfront District offers a wonderful variety of activities, dining, shopping and workplace space perfect for just about everyone.

About the Ontario BIA Association: OBIAA is the network that represents unique and vibrant BIAs across Ontario. The Association supports and advocates on behalf of its members through the building and nurturing of strong relationships and partnerships. OBIAA is a leader in the development and sharing of information, tools, resources and best practices, and is the ONE voice on common issues.

About Digital Main Street: Digital Main Street is an innovative program designed to help main street small businesses achieve digital transformation. The program is built around an online learning platform, structured training programs, grants and Digital Service Squads teams of street-level experts that help main street small businesses manage and grow their operations through technology adoption.  The program was originally created by the Toronto Association of BIAs (TABIA) and a group of strategic partners including Google, MasterCard, Rogers, Microsoft and Shopify.  The Province of Ontario expansion of Digital Main Street is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and delivered by the Ontario BIA Association.  The Ontario expansion is part of the government’s $12 million Main Street Enhancement Initiative to create jobs and support communities across the province.  For more information, please visit

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