Local Chambers apply for Shop Local Grant

By Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer

A group of northern Ontario chambers of commerce are joining forces to apply for a Shop Local grant through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. The Kenora Chamber of Commerce is taking the lead on the initiative, which will see resources distributed to promote shopping locally.

The Kenora Chamber has found the support of the Fort Frances Chamber, Dryden Chamber, Red Lake Chamber & Sioux Lookout Chamber, which have all signed on as partners to support the request for a $150,000 grant.

The new Shop Local initiative will see an investment of $33 million across Canada to encourage Canadians to shop locally. Out of that investment, nearly $9 million will be invested in Ontario, through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

The initiative aims to support businesses as they reopen after over a year of closures during the pandemic. The funding will be provided through provincial and territorial chambers of commerce to promote consumer confidence and support local businesses to thrive in recovery.

Chambers across Canada can use the funding to support a range of actions that encourage consumers to shop locally in a way that aligns with current public health guidelines.

Chambers can also have open calls for proposals from local organizations or businesses that promote consumer awareness and demonstrate benefits to the broader business community.

A few examples of actions that can be taken to help promote local businesses are seasonal campaigns intended to direct shoppers to local small merchants, promotions of online shopping, curbside pickup and delivery, as well as public health measures being implemented to make retail spaces safe and raise consumer confidence.

Kelly Smith, manager of the Kenora and District Chamber of Commerce, said even though Kenora and many of the other towns in the district are tourist towns, this initiative is all about getting the locals to shop locally.

“Instead of going on Amazon, just try and support your local shops,” Smith said.

Smith said the chambers in the district decided to apply to the grant as a group instead of individually as there is strength in numbers.

“We’re all very small chambers, Fort Frances, Dryden and Sioux Lookout. I think it just made more sense to do it as a group,” Smith said. “And then work it to be more specific for each community.”

Their application includes 20 to 27 videos, digital marketing, branding, and radio ads that promote the importance of shopping local.

The videos would be the most expensive part and will highlight small businesses in the region and the business owner.

There will also be radio broadcasting throughout Kenora, Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Red Lake, Fort Frances, Emo, and Rainy River, which will include local interviews with business owners to promote the importance of shopping local.

Smith said another part in their campaign that they want to touch on is showing where the customer’s dollar goes when they shop locally.

For example, Smith said if a high school comes in looking for support for jerseys, then their local businesses would be able to donate towards that and then the high school might be able to hire somebody locally to make their jerseys.

“Therefore, that money stays in the community and builds the strength of the community,” Smith said.

Smith said they anticipate the campaign will run between Sept. 1 and Jan. 31, 2022. This campaign will also help promote ongoing shop local campaigns.

Smith said they should be hearing back about the funding soon, adding that although they applied for the maximum amount of $150,000, they may receive less but are prepared to make do with whatever amount they receive if approved.