Candice Vetter
Record Staff
TORONTO – The Government of Ontario announced on Fri., Jan. 26, that it is allocating funds to help rural communities attract investment and tourism, through main street and downtown revitalization projects.

Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Minister Responsible for Small Business, made the announcement at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference in Toronto.

Leal said the funding will help create jobs and enhance regional economic growth by supporting the revitalization of downtowns across the province. “Main streets are at the core of small, rural communities and are home to thousands of small businesses across the province,” he said in the media release. “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.”

The release pointed out the importance of vibrant main streets, which can attract visitors, create jobs and increase the competitiveness of small businesses, which are the backbone of small, rural communities. Revitalization projects could include improvements such as the installation of pedestrian crosswalks or landscaping. Municipalities can also choose to direct funding to local businesses to improve the appearance of their storefronts by installing lighting or new signage.

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 existing Downtown Revitalization Program that supports rural main street revitalization. Funding will be allocated to municipalities based on population size, using the most recent data from the 2016 Statistics Canada Census of Population with an adjustment for municipalities with fewer than 25,000 residents.

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

Funds to local municipalities will be allocated as follows: Russell – $50,036, The Nation – $46,892, Casselman – $39,049, North Dundas – $45,596, South Dundas – $45,219, North Glengarry – $44,606, South Glengarry – $47,182, North Stormont – $41,865, and South Stormont – $47,148.

In addition, the City of Ottawa will receive $819,641. An extra bonus to the program is that the funds will be distributed without the municipalities needing to provide matching funds, as is often the case.

“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,” said Lynn Dollin, President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and Deputy Mayor of the Town of Innisfil. “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.”

Mayors of the local municipalities listed above were asked if they had plans for the funds, but all said they were in the process of looking at what could be accomplished with it, or would be in early February.