Checking in with Downtown

March 6, 2024 | Part 5: Business Resources

Happy March everyone, this year seems to be flying by! As the weeks pass and plans begin ramping up, we understand that things may unintentionally get lost in the shuffle of everyone’s busy schedules. This is especially important as a business owner, as you may be missing out on vital information or opportunities. This blog post will act as a round-up of some of the recent important resources that were announced for business owners, helpful to those within the downtown core and Hamilton more generally.

The first important resource for business owners to make note of is My Main Street. This is a $15-million Government of Ontario investment, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), to foster the stabilization and revitalization of main streets across southern Ontario. My Main Street is being delivered by the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) and offers two streams that opened for applications on February 22, 2024. The Business Sustainability stream supports brick-and-mortar businesses located on main streets across southern Ontario with up to $20,000 in non-repayable funding to enhance productivity. The program will provide advanced market research to businesses to address localized needs and opportunities. Funding will be made available to businesses that employ between 1 and 50 staff, have demonstrated revenue growth, and provide a business case on how the funding will strengthen their existing capacity and support their growth. The My Main Street Business Sustainability Stream focuses on the following pillars: customized data, market research and analysis; community economic development, and prioritizing equity-deserving groups. The Community Activator stream will support community not-for-profit projects focused on high-impact placemaking activities with up to $250,000 in non-repayable funding. Projects considered will include initiatives such as events and festivals, community enhancements, and streetscape improvements. Applications for both streams are now open, so find more information and apply at

Another resource that is important for Hamilton-based businesses, specifically restaurants, is the return of the Temporary Outdoor Patio Program. Some important enhancements have been made to this year’s program, including:

  • Eligible applicants will be expanded beyond restaurants, bars, and cafes provided that the intended use of the patio is as a gathering space. Extension of retail space on to Temporary Outdoor Patios will not be permitted.
  • A simplified application will be required for Temporary Outdoor Patios on private property, such as private parking areas. This is required for licensed establishments that would like to request to share their liquor license capacity between their indoor establishment and their outdoor patio space. An application fee will no longer be required for patios on private property.
  • The 2023 “On-Street Patio – Traffic Device Hardware and Installation Fee” has been removed

During the City Council General Issues Committee on February 21, a motion was passed to waive the Temporary Outdoor Patio fee: of $676.11 for the 2024 season. This motion will still have to be ratified by the Council, and due to the cybersecurity issues that the City of Hamilton is currently facing, their agenda was deferred until March 27. All applicants are still encouraged to apply for their permits. Applicable invoices will not be issued until after March 27 once it is confirmed the fees have been waived. Permits will be prepared in advance so they can be issued once the Council approves the motion, in advance of the April 1st patio launch date. You can find more information about the launch of the 2024 Temporary Outdoor Patio Program and apply here. Applications will be accepted until June 1, so make sure you get yours in before the deadline closes!

The next important resource for Hamilton business owners is the 2024 EmployerOne Survey. Workforce Planning Hamilton (WPH) in partnership with the City of Hamilton’s Economic Development Office launched the 2024 EmployerOne Survey to capture an up-to-date snapshot of Hamilton business and employer needs. Why Participate? Completing this survey can help provide Workforce Data to better understand the needs of Hamilton Employers, discover insights on how to progress Hamilton’s Economy forward, chart an evidence-based course for Hamilton’s future, and more. The survey has 20 questions and will take 10 minutes to complete. The findings will only be published in an aggregated form to maintain the confidentiality of all respondents. The deadline to participate is March 8, and you can take the survey here.

An important resource that was launched last year but is still applicable in 2024 is the changes made to the Commercial District Revitalization Grant Program to provide grants for graffiti removal. On September 13, 2023 City Council approved changes to the CDRG program to provide grants for removing graffiti on commercial and mixed-use commercial properties located within strategic commercial districts and corridors. The property owner or the commercial business at the subject site can apply and the grant is for private properties only. It is $200 per incident up to a maximum of 5 incidents ($1000) in a calendar year. This grant is temporary until March 31, 2025, and it will then be at the City Council’s discretion whether to alter or discontinue it. You can find more information regarding this grant here, and then apply here. It is important to note that any applications where graffiti is not the sole subject being sought should go through the normal CDRG Program application process.

The final important resource was just recently announced, and that is the return of the FirstOntario 1Awards. Now in it’s 12th year, the FirstOntario 1Awards continues to put a spotlight on small businesses in Hamilton, Halton, Brant, Niagara, and surrounding areas by offering cash and in-kind services as a means to help businesses thrive – not just survive. This year’s prize pool consists of $200,000 – $25,000 in cash and $175,000 in professional services. Eligible businesses must have 50 employees or less and have been in business for at least 24 months. The business must demonstrate measurable growth, such as workforce expansion, innovation, and community impact. The deadline for applications is March 31, so make sure that you submit in time! You can find more information and submit your application here.


These resources are designed to support businesses within Hamilton and help them thrive. Taking advantage of any one of them can help grow your business and provide opportunities that you did not previously have access to.

If you are a Downtown Hamilton BIA member business and would like to be featured in a blog post, please email Emily Gilruth at



The Downtown Update is the e-newsletter sent by the Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement Area to keep both members of the BIA and interested supporters of Downtown up-to-date with activities and issues in the core of our community.