Google Canada says it’s committing $1 million to expand Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE program nationally in an attempt to help get 50,000 small businesses online by 2021. 

The tech giant announced the expansion in a blog post today. Since the launch of ShopHere program, Google Canada says more than 1,000 Toronto businesses have signed up to expand their digital presence. 

“We remain optimistic and more determined than ever that technology is the toolkit for a world of opportunities. Our one million dollar investment will go towards expanding the ShopHERE program nationally, so we can help small businesses across Canada navigate the challenges ahead,” said Sabrina Geremia, vice-president and country manager for Google Canada, in a press release. 

As a part of the national expansion, ShopHERE, which is powered by Google, will also train and onboard an unspecified number of Canadian university and college students, who are faced with a challenging job market as a result of shutdowns, to build the online stores for the participating small businesses. 

Created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) – a non-profit umbrella organization working with the 83 business improvement areas within the City of Toronto, who in turn represent more than 40,000 business and property owners – Digital Main Street (DMS) is a program that helps main street businesses achieve digital transformation. The program is built around an online learning platform, structured training programs, and its Digital Service Squad, a team of street-level members who help main street businesses grow and manage their operations through technology. DMS is also supported by Google, Shopify, Microsoft and MasterCard, among others. 

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, storefronts across the country have been forced to close their doors. Ninety per cent of the private sector workforce in Canada is employed by small businesses and many have been laid off as businesses close. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, these closures are likely to hit small and medium-sized businesses hardest. 

“Main street businesses are facing unprecedented times due to COVID-19. They need to be able to sell online if they are going to survive and we are proud to expand the ShopHERE powered by Google program to help them achieve this. This program is critical in ensuring main streets can adapt and evolve during this crucial time,” said John Kiru, executive director of TABIA.

Applications are now open for businesses and artists in the City of Toronto, and the company says it will be rolling the program out in select municipalities across the country in the coming weeks and months. The businesses or artists who are not based in Toronto can still register here, and Digital Main Street will notify them when the program becomes available in their respective municipalities. Moreover, governments and organizations that are interested in bringing the ShopHERE program to their respective municipalities can sign up on the website.

“We must do everything we can to support our main street small businesses and help them survive this crisis. Thanks to this investment from Google, the ShopHERE program will be available to municipalities across Canada. I encourage communities across the country to sign up and unlock digital opportunities and support for their local businesses,” John Tory, Mayor of Toronto, said in a statement.

 

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