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Small businesses in Alberta receive support to expand digital presence


By Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

THE DRUMHELLER MAIL

Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer and Associate Minister of Rural Economic Development Nate Horner announced on Thursday, October 28 the provincial government will be making a $10 million investment to help small businesses expand their online presence.

Along with the investment, the province will partner with Business Link and Digital Main Street to develop the Digital Economy Program.

“Websites that are effective are ones you are constantly maintaining and updating,” says Reality Bytes owner and CEO John Shoff. “People need/want e-commerce, live chat, social media integration. It’s not a one-page brochure type of setup that works for most businesses anymore.”

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The Digital Economy Program will take a two-pronged approach to supporting small businesses.

ShopHERE program, which is powered by Google, will give eligible small businesses the ability to create and operate online stores, while also having access to support and training through Digital Main Street. To qualify, businesses must be registered in Alberta and have fewer than 50 employees.

Funding will also be provided to eligible organizations, such as non-profits, chambers of commerce, and economic development agencies. This will allow these organizations to hire post secondary students and recent graduates, who will be in charge of developing digital service squads to provide support and services, develop digital business strategies for social media and e-commerce.

Earlier this year, the provincial government announced it would invest $150 million to help expand and improve broadband internet access in rural areas throughout the province.

“Rural Albertans have often had to choose between living in their hometown and pursuing new opportunities,” said Associate Minister Horner during Thursday’s press conference.

Associate Minister Horner says the new Digital Economy Program will go “hand in glove” with the rural broadband initiative, and will continue to allow those looking to live a more rural lifestyle to hold jobs which would typically require urban living.

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