Last week, Ontario announced its 2022 budget titled “Ontario’s Plan to Build.” There’s a business focus in Ontario’s 2022 budget. This 268-page budget touches on many key areas such as building more highways and hospitals as well as a commitment to keeping costs down. In the coming weeks, Grants Offices will have a detailed article examining the various funding initiatives found within the budget, but for now, let’s focus on key programs established that could help businesses of all kinds—entrepreneurs, companies undergoing digital transformation, the ability for businesses to grow, and innovation.
Ontario has established an Entrepreneurship Council that include various leaders across the province with the hopes of addressing key issues facing entrepreneurs and small business owners. Some key initiatives that will be implemented include:
- Recruit 100 international entrepreneurs to start or grow businesses in regions outside of the Greater Toronto Area through the entrepreneur stream of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program
- Expand access to startup and growth capital through the proposed Venture Ontario, currently known as Ontario Capital Growth Corporation, the province’s venture capital agency. This venture capital agency would continue to support a portfolio of valuable companies. Provincial venture capital investments of approximately $380 million to date have leveraged over $4.5 billion in growth capital.
- Venture Ontario’s venture capital funding will increase from $100 million to $300 million
- Ontario will consult with the angel investment community to explore opportunities to grow its capital and bring its benefits to communities across the province
- Accelerate the development of new products and services by improving access to provincial procurement opportunities through measures such as the Building Ontario Businesses Initiative
- Increase access to markets for small businesses by addressing logistical and competition challenges
$2 million is being invested in Futurpreneur Canada with the goal of giving entrepreneurs necessary tools required to be successful business owners. Additional initiatives of this program include an increased focus on underrepresented demographic groups as well as mentorship services and collateral-free loan capital.
The government discussed some of the things that have been done for small businesses from a digital standpoint. The Digital Main Street Program, established in 2020, has helped more than 41,000 businesses by increasing their digital presence. The Digital Main Street Program provides grants to implement digital strategies, while also offering technical training for workers to reach more customers in person and online. Another big program is the ShopHERE program, which gives businesses open online stores at no cost. An additional $40 million has been invested in the Digital Main Street Program until 2024.
The Digitization Competence Centre has been created as a way to support digital literacy and technology adoption. This $10 million investment will strive to provide small businesses with the training and support to use new equipment and processes with an overarching goal of helping these organizations better understand and adopt the many new technologies being harnessed.
The budget mentions explicitly the importance of streamlining how to start, grow, and manage a business in Ontario. Here’s word-for-word what the government outlines within the budget:
“A single window for business will make it easier for businesses to navigate to relevant business information, including information tailored by industry, all in one place. The single window for business will introduce service standard guarantees so businesses can track the information they need from the government.
This is just one of the many actions the government is taking to help businesses thrive and grow.”
Another area to look for as the year progresses is support for Business Improvement Areas. Ontario has plans to work with its municipal partners and additional stakeholders to change the Municipal Act, 2001 and City of Toronto Act, 2006 with the goal of providing Business Improvement Areas with greater access to grants and funding resources.
Lastly, there’s innovation, which continues to dominate the budget from a federal and provincial level. Within Ontario, there’s a heightened emphasis on commercializing intellectual property (IP). According to the budget, only 17 percent of Ontario businesses, between 2017 and 2019, reported owning IP. For that reason, Ontario has created Intellectual Property Ontario, a nearly $58 million, three-year investment. This agency will be the go-to resource for post-secondary institutions, researchers, and companies to maximize the value of their IP while increasing their ability to grow and compete in the global market.
Overall, Ontario will invest roughly $107 million over the next three years for critical technology initiatives that support access to and the commercialization of these technologies.