Ontario launches province-wide program to revitalize rural downtowns and Main Streets

Ontario is helping rural communities attract investment and tourism, create jobs and enhance regional economic growth by supporting the revitalization of downtown and main streets across the province.

On January 23, 2018, Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Minister Responsible for Small Business, announced the program at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference in Toronto, “Main streets are at the core of small, rural communities and are home to thousands of small businesses across the province. That’s why our government is committed to ensuring they continue to remain vibrant hubs where residents meet, tourists visit and small businesses grow and prosper,” he explained.

Vibrant main streets help attract visitors, create jobs and increase the competitiveness of small businesses, which are the backbone of small, rural communities. That’s why the province is helping municipalities enhance and revitalize their downtown and main streets through improvements such as the installation of pedestrian crosswalks or landscaping. Municipalities can also direct funding to local businesses to improve the appearance of their storefronts by installing lighting or new signage.

Supporting small businesses and communities across the province is part of Ontario’s plan to create fairness and opportunity during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, easier access to affordable child care, and free prescription drugs for everyone under 25, through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation.

AMO welcomes new funding through the Main Street Revitalization Initiative and we are pleased that municipal governments won’t have to provide matching funds to access the program. Municipal governments know how to get things done. This funding will help move projects forward on Ontario’s Main Streets, helping to attract residents, visitors and support the business community,” said Lynn Dollin, President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and Deputy Mayor of the Town of Innisfil.

Ontario is investing up to $26 million in the Main Street Revitalization Initiative, which will be administered by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and its rural arm, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association.

This initiative is part of a $40 million investment over three years in the Main Street Enhancement Fund, which will help strengthen small businesses in downtown and main street areas and enhance the digital presence and capabilities of small businesses through increased access to digital tools like e-commerce.

The revitalization initiative expands upon and complements the Downtown Revitalization Program that supports main street revitalization in rural areas. Funding will be allocated to municipalities based on population size, using the most recent data from the 2016 Statistics Canada Census of Population. The formula includes an adjustment for those municipalities that have fewer than 25,000 residents. This adjustment ensures that small communities are provided an appropriate level of funding where their population figures would otherwise limit their respective funding allocations within the parameters of the program.

About one-third of Ontario workers are employed by small businesses, which are businesses that employ less than 100 paid employees. To strengthen Ontario small businesses, the province is providing more than $500 million over three years in new initiatives that include lowering the small business tax rate by 22 per cent from 4.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent, investing in youth employment, providing support for downtown main street businesses and reducing red tape.

Many smaller communities have downtown business areas that play a special and critical role in building strong local economies. Programs like the Main Street Revitalization Initiative benefit our Main Street businesses which are important to rural Ontario,” added Ronald Holman, Chair of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association and Mayor of the Township of Rideau Lakes.

Photo of derelict industrial bulding in Port Dover, Ontario by Storm Cunningham.

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