Market Development Incentives for Ontario Businesses (2020): 30 Government Programs to Help Grow Your Business

Market Development Incentives for Ontario Businesses

Every business requires money to grow, and these programs will help you find more, whether you need to pay it back later or you get to keep it.

The most important thing to remember, as with all funding programs, is to keep accurate, up-to-date, organized records because some programs can require a lot of supporting documents.

And of course, if you’re located in Ontario, you get an extra dose of funding programs!

Incentives Available Across Canada

Even if you’re not in Ontario, don’t lose hope. There are still plenty of federally funded programs out there to help you, regardless of your sector. And some of them are pretty compelling!

Grants

AI-Powered Supply Chains Supercluster (SCALE.AI) Industry-led Projects

Are you an SME in the AI sector? Well, then pay close attention! This program could give you the funding you need for your project if you can speed along the process of bringing AI to supply chains.

To get funding to help your project along, you’ll first need to register with SCALE.AI. Then you can submit your proposal for review, and once it’s accepted, you can then work with SCALE.AI to create a detailed proposal for submission. SCALE.AI will then make any changes they think it may need, you and they will sign a project agreement, and then you can get your money.

You can apply for this program any time you like, just make sure your AI project can be applied to the supply chain in some way, you have a partnership between at least 1 SME and a postsecondary or research institution, and have the approval or endorsement of your CEO or executive.

Jump in on the ground floor and be part of the central AI pillar SCALE.AI aims to become.

Read through the FAQs to learn more, send them a message online, or send them an email.

Canadian Agricultural Partnership AgriAssurance Program: National Industry Association Component

Moving on from the AI sector to the agriculture and agri-food sector, here’s a grant program to help your nonprofit organization create or adopt new tools, standards, and/or services related to assurance systems that can verify health and safety claims.

Nonprofits of any sort such as associations, cooperatives, clubs, societies, and Indigenous groups qualify as long as you operate in the agriculture, agri-food, and agri-based products sphere and can enter legally binding agreements.

Groups that fit all those qualifications could end up with funding equal to a minimum of 25% of eligible project costs but not more than $1 million in 5 years.

If you’re interested in funding from this program, just download the application form, fill it out, and send it in with all the other required documents:

  1. a Signature of Applicant Authorized Representative
  2. a copy of your Certificates or Articles of Incorporation
  3. 2 years of financial statements (optional)
  4. Project Endorsement Letters/Letters of Support
  5. Consent for Use, Disclosure and Copyright
  6. documents to demonstrate market relevance
  7. a description of the strategic importance of your proposal
  8. a project team description
  9. an executive summary
  10. capital asset pre-approval for grants and contributions programs, if applicable
  11. an implementation plan

Apply as soon as possible because this program ends on March 31, 2023, and they’re only accepting applications until September 30, 2022, or until the funding runs out.

It’s a good idea to read through the application guide before you begin. And hopefully the application process goes smoothly, but if not and you find yourself with questions and you’ve already perused the guide, then be sure to send an email or give them a call at 1-877-246-4682.

Canadian Agricultural Partnership AgriCompetitiveness Program

Be part of improving the agricultural sector by developing a project that can offer mentorship opportunities, expand capacity, adapt to changing regulations, and more.

If you do and you’re a nonprofit organization that exists only for the benefit of others in some way, such as social welfare or civic improvement, and can enter into legally binding agreements, this funding could be yours.

Though you need to put up 50% of the costs yourself, this program still offers $1 million a year up to $5 million over 5 years for those of you who have a project that could potentially increase agricultural awareness, increase profitability for farmers, expand the knowledge base, or any other goal acceptable to the program.

You could even get additional funding to host an agricultural fair! They’ll give you up to $100,000/year for that to a maximum of $500,000 in 5 years. For more detailed information, read their online application guide. It also contains far more detail on eligible projects and the application process.

If you’ve decided you’d like to apply, read the guide and give the program a call at 1-877-246-4682 before you do. Once you’ve done that, download and fill out the application form and send it in electronically with rest of these required documents:

  1. an executive summary
  2. a Signature of Applicant Authorized Representative
  3. a Consent for Use, Disclosure and Copyright
  4. a copy of the organization’s Certificates or Articles of Incorporation
  5. a copy of the last 2 years’ financial statements
  6. Project Endorsement Letters/Letters of Support, if applicable
  7. capital asset pre-approval for grants and contributions programs, if applicable

Take advantage of this program now because they’re only taking applications until September 30, 2022, or until the funding runs dry, and this one is incredibly popular. Otherwise, this program ends March 31, 2023.

To get in touch with the program with general questions, just send them an email or give them a call at 1-877-246-4682 (or TDD/TTY: 613-773-2600).

Canadian Heritage Canada Book Fund (CBF) – Support for Organizations

No one knows how difficult it is to do a simple thing like get Canadian content out into the world more than a Canadian author or publisher. 

Thankfully, this program is aimed at assisting with the marketing and promotion of Canadian-authored books and hopefully strengthening the book industry at the same time.

Any incorporated Canadian-owned or controlled organization operating in or representing one operating in the Canadian book industry can participate in this program, but it’s tremendously popular, so applying doesn’t guarantee funding.

But you don’t know until you try, right? So, apply by April 30, 2020, for projects starting between September 1 and March 31 to hopefully receive funding of up to $2 million/project (up to 100% of costs) for nonprofits or $1.5 million (up to 75% of costs) for other organizations.

While that kind of funding sounds good, the program tries to limit funding to 50% of project costs so they help as many organizations as possible. For that reason, they encourage you to find additional funding sources, though the total support any one organization can receive per year is $2 million.

It’s simple to apply too. Just fill out and submit the application form according to the instructions on the form. For guidance through the process and answers to questions that crop up, read through the application guide.

If you still have questions, you can email them or pick up the phone and call 1-819-997-0055 or 1-866-811-0055 (toll-free).

Other

Canadian Agricultural Partnership AgriInnovate Program

Is your business ready to fast track the use, commercialization, or demonstration of an innovative process, service, product, or technology that has the potential to escalate the agricultural sector’s sustainability or competitiveness?

If so, and you’re okay with participating in a program whose investment you’ll have to pay back later, look into this one further. You could wind up with up to $10 million to see your project to fruition, provided you put out 50% of the project costs. The total amount funded by any level of government can’t be more than 75% of the ultimate project costs either.

Now, you may have something waiting in the wings that may advantageous to the agricultural sector, but to receive funding, and especially to receive priority, you’ll also have to address an issue in one of these priority areas:

  • adopting leading-edge clean technology (including precision agriculture)
  • increasing productivity with advanced manufacturing, automation, or robotics
  • strengthening Canada’s value-added agri-sectors
  • securing or expanding new export markets

So, for-profits, what are you waiting for? Whether you’re a corporation or cooperative, if you’re incorporated in Canada and can sign a legally binding agreement, you qualify for this repayable funding. Know that all phases of the project have to be completed by March 31, 2023, however.

Simply fill in and send the online prescreening form, then submit the full application once you’ve been invited to—but read the applicant guide first. Remember to have your supporting documents together and in order because there’s a lot of them, and you’ve only got 30 days to get everything in once you’ve started the application process!

Here’s the supporting documents you’ll have to submit with the application:

  1. Signature of Applicant Authorized Representative
  2. Consent to Disclose/Copyright 
  3. completed business plan
  4. organizational chart
  5. diagram of your corporate structure
  6. audited or reviewed engagement financial statements for 3 years
  7. pro forma financial statements
  8. signed copies of all financing agreements related to the project financing plan
  9. market research studies and/or letters of support
  10. your Certificate or Articles of Incorporation
  11. performance measures table
  12. quotes, estimates, and/or contracts
  13. copies of all regulatory permits and/or patents required for the project
  14. copy of any inter-company or other agreement impacting the proposed project

Hurry and apply today because there is a 130-day delay in processing applications, and the clock is ticking if all activities are to be completed by March 31, 2023!

As detailed as this process can be, feel free to email or call them at 1-877-246-4682 (or TDD/TTY: 613-773-2600), and make sure you read through the FAQs.

Incentives Available in Ontario

Well, here you have it Ontario! Here’s a boatload of additional funding programs available for you to take advantage of. There’s even a tax credit for you in this list. Some deadlines are coming up quickly, so jump on them now if they’re a good fit.

Grants

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Rural Economic Development (RED) Program

Here’s a funding program geared toward improving rural Ontario’s economic development through nonprofit organizations that also work to achieve this goal.

There are 2 aspects to this program. The first, the Economic Diversification and Competitiveness Stream, offers funds for projects that increase job growth and investment, strengthen regional and/or sector collaborations, or diversify the area’s economy. This could include projects such as downtown revitalization or sector skills development.

The second aspect, the Strategic Economic Infrastructure Stream, funds projects that advance economic development and investment opportunities in some way. Projects in this stream could include rehabilitating cultural or heritage sites or street and landscaping.

Groups working on projects within the first aspect can expect to receive up to 50% of eligible costs to a cap of $150,000, and those with projects fitting the second aspect’s requirements could expect to get up to 30%, to a maximum of $250,000, to cover their eligible costs. However, if you’re getting funding from any other provincial source, you won’t qualify for either aspect of this program.

You will qualify, though, if you’re a municipality, a nonprofit, an Indigenous community or organization, or a local services board located in Ontario.

All you have to do to get your funding is fill in the application form and submit it to ontario.ca/REDprogram by the intake date and time indicated.

They should reach their decision on your funding within 3 months, but if you have any questions, send them an email.

Ministry of Francophone Affairs Francophone Community Grants Program: Community and Culture Stream

The province of Ontario funds this two-pronged program designed to strengthen Ontario Francophone organizations, create opportunities to encourage a better understanding of Ontario’s Francophonie, and increase partnerships among Francophone service providers.

The first is the Community and Culture Stream. As long as your organization is a legal nonprofit working to achieve one of those aims, you’ve operated in Ontario for at least 2 years, have the authority or direction to initiate programs benefitting Francophones, and invite the public to participate in their development, you could qualify for funds!

The second stream is the Economic Development Stream. For-profit organizations can qualify for this one as long as your business has at least 3 employees, is registered or incorporated, located in Ontario, has operated in Ontario for at least 2 years, and meets at least one of the following criteria:

  1. you operate in a francophone community
  2. you deliver products and/or services to a francophone market in Ontario
  3. you create a realistic business expansion plan supported by market data
  4. you partner with a regional, national, or international organization (for-profit or nonprofit) to bring increased products and services to the French-speaking Ontario market

Just start by registering and creating an ID and password in Transfer Payment Ontario for either stream, then submit your application form there along with your articles of incorporation (or other acceptable evidence), most recent financial statements, proof of insurance, and letters of support confirming cash contributions.

Take a look at their FAQs for answers to your questions about the program and the application process, and make sure you use the guide as you go. If you’d just like general information, contact a Regional Advisor or register and attend an information session.

Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) Grow Grants

The Ontario Trillium Foundation wants to give your organization money if you have a project that will improve the economic development of and benefit your community.

Eligible projects could achieve this in one of three ways: you could start, adapt, or reproduce a program; you could enlarge an existing program so it affects even more people; or you could improve a current program to achieve the same outcome.

Qualifying organizations with a project that can achieve one of these outcomes could get between $50,000 and $250,000/year for 2 to 3 years. But only Indigenous communities, municipalities of less than 20,000, charitable organizations, nonprofits, or collaborations of any these qualify, and you must deliver your services in Ontario.

You’ll also have to apply by August 12, or you’ll have missed the boat!

Just apply online if your organization is interested, send them an email or give them a shout at 1-800-263-2887 if you have questions, or take a gander through the reference manual. You can even chat about your proposed project with a program manager if you like by booking a coaching call.

Government of Ontario Tourism Development Fund: Tourism Product Development, Industry Capacity-Building, and Tourism Investment Attraction Streams

The Tourism Development Fund offers three funding programs for nonprofits whose aim is to increase or improve capacity building, investment, or product development in the tourism industry.

First up are the Product Development and Industry Capacity-Building streams. These streams work with tourism associations (except regional tourism organizations) and any nonprofit organizations, municipalities, and national, and/or provincial industry sector associations.

The Tourism Investment Attraction stream works with only economic development corporations and municipalities.

All streams require that you confirm you have the following remaining qualifications however:

  • have legal status in whatever form that may be
  • not be in default with any grant or loan agreement with any ministry or agency of the Government of Ontario
  • have at least $2 million general commercial liability insurance coverage
  • state the proposed expenses won’t be used for recurring costs to run your organization
  • have up to 50% of total cash expenses as outlined in your project cash operating budget available
  • have the remaining project cash in your operating budget coming from a combination of organization and project partner cash contributions, with at least 20% of the cash coming from you

For more detailed information about the qualifications, take a look at the application guide.

Should you and your project fit any of those streams, just create an online account and register with Transfer Payment Ontario. Then you can fill out and submit your application along with your certificate of insurance, partnership letters, and the amount of cash or in-kind contributions you have for your project. Make sure you submit everything no less than 4 months before your project is due to begin!

Read through the FAQs to help you along during your application journey, and get in touch with your regional advisor or email or phone if you have any questions.

Government of Ontario Forestry Growth Fund

This is another one of those funding programs that’s a little different in that it offers both loans and grants depending on the needs of your project.

That said, your project must benefit the forestry industry by accomplishing at least 1 of 6 goals to be considered for funding:

  1. improve productivity
  2. boost innovation
  3. enhance competitiveness
  4. assist with new market access
  5. strengthen existing supply chains
  6. reinforce regional economies

Your business will also have to manufacture or process wood and forest biomass (including sawmills, pulp and paper mills, and secondary wood manufacturers) in Ontario and have a bio-economy project expected to cost at least $5 million. Unfortunately, you won’t qualify if your project involves harvesting or resource extraction.

Finally, you could apply for funding for a for-profit business project or a collaborative project. The latter will require at least 3 partners. They could include a research or academic institution, forest industry association, or an additional for-profit organization.

Otherwise, you’re safe. In that case, you could receive a grant of up to 15% or a loan of up to 30% of eligible business project costs (up to 50% of which may end up being forgiven), depending on the strength of the match between the program objectives and your for-profit project.

Collaborative projects could get up to 30% of their costs covered up to $3 million.

You can stack government funding programs with both these options, but you can’t use additional provincial funding programs to help fund a business project.

This is also another two-step application process. To get started, create an account and log in to Transfer Payment Ontario to fill out and submit a Stage 1 Eligibility Checklist and Application by any one of the stage one deadlines of March 20, 2020; June 19, 2020; or September 18, 2020.

If you pass stage one, you’ll be invited to submit a business plan along with any other supporting documents they tell you of. Make sure you do this before the matching stage-two deadlines: April 28, 2020; July 27, 2020; October 26, 2020.

If you need some help with the process or you just want some more info, send them an email or give them a call at 1-844-573-9017.

Government of Ontario Grassroots Growth Program

And back we go to a funding program for the agricultural industry!

This program from the province of Ontario will give you funding to help with your short-term agri-food project if it helps to grow the sector by ensuring sustainable agriculture and promoting successful rural economies.

Your project may be accepted for funding provided it achieves at least one of these goals:

  • increases public engagement and support for agriculture, local food, and rural development
  • builds youth leadership capacity and youth involvement in the agri-food sector
  • enhances safety and risk management practices in the agri-food sector
  • strengthens public trust and public knowledge about Ontario’s agri-food systems
  • encourages agri-food and rural development outcomes

You can be an organization of any type and still qualify for funding with this program as long as you can enter a legally binding agreement and share all possible sources of funding with the program.

So after you submit a pre-proposal and then a full application, you could actually get all of your project costs covered. Unfortunately though, cost-shared project costs will be given preference.

All you have to do to apply is first email them your preproposal. Then if they invite you, send in the application form with a few more details that should include a detailed project design, a rationale to explain the “why” of the project, its project impact on the industry, your organizational capacity, a work plan with timelines, and your budget and financial capacity.

For guidance in applying, read their helpful guidelines. To learn more, email them or give them a shout toll free at 1-877-424-1300.

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Canadian Agricultural Partnership, Place to Grow: Agri-food Innovation Initiative, Funding for Sectors and Strategic Solutions Streams

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs offers this limited-time only program to help fund projects that will enhance the agriculture and its food-value chain partners by addressing industry priorities such as food safety and 

traceability, animal health, plant health, soil health and water quality, market development, technology solutions, and labour supply and training challenges.

This is another cost-sharing program set up in 2 streams: the Funding for Sectors stream and the Strategic Solutions stream. The first financially supports partner organizations as they work to solve challenges in any of the priority categories listed above, and the second stream focuses on larger, bolder projects.

Any organization qualifies to participate in the program in either stream as long as you’re working with partner organizations, but Ontario-based nonprofits that aren’t academic or research institutions are welcome to apply alone. However, the program prefers partnerships over sole applicants.

Partnerships for both streams are defined as 2 or more legal organizations with an Arm’s Length between them that are all in the agriculture, agri-food, or agri-products industry and all contribute cash or in-kind resources to the project.

If your organization has a great idea to solve challenges in one of the identified categories in this sector and you’ve got a partner or two, you could get funding of up to $100,000 or 50% of your project costs under the Funding for Sectors stream. You could even request more than that, in excess of $100,000 and/or up to 75% of your project costs, if it’s clear and essential you need the extra to successfully complete your project.

Funding for the Strategic Solutions stream doesn’t necessarily have a fixed amount, but the program suggests projects require a minimum government funding of between $250,000 and $1 million. You’ll also have to show you and all partners are able to meet the remaining project costs yourself. You can stack government funding program, however, provided the maximum amount of government funding totals no more than 85% of project costs.

Your partnership needs to have a lead entity so they can fulfill the role of lead applicant. With the Funding for Sectors stream, that organization will complete and sign the application for everyone, ensuring they include their CRA business number. The lead applicant will also agree to be bound by the Terms and Conditions of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership Cost-share Funding for Sectors on behalf of all the partners.

Then the lead partner will submit the application, with all required documentation, by email. Don’t procrastinate though, because no applications will be accepted for the Funding for Sectors stream after September 29, 2020, and all project tasks under the Strategic Solutions stream must be finished by December 1, 2022.

Be aware that there is a two-step application process for the Strategic Solutions stream. You’ll first need to submit a pre-proposal via email using the template provided, and if that’s accepted, you’ll then be invited to submit an application in the same manner as for the Funding for Sectors stream.

To learn more about either stream, contact them by email or by phone at 1-877-424-1300 toll free.

Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Ontario Automotive Modernization Program (O-AMP)

And here’s one for those of you in the Ontario automotive industry! Here’s a funding program to help you help the sector become more competitive. 

The only catch is you need to be a small- or medium-sized automotive parts supplier with a business number and less than 500 employees. Large businesses can take part too, but you’ll have to partner with a smaller organization.

But if this is you, get your ducks in a row and your plans on paper so you can get funding of $100,000 for your project, up to 50% of project costs. Of course, as usual, you’ll still have to cover the remaining 50% yourself, but with this one, those funds can come from not just your own business resources but also from private or bank funding (just not additional government funding).

To apply, you’ll first have to register with Grants Ontario. Once done, you’ll then register with Transfer Payment Ontario, after which you can click on the grant program listing to apply.

Before you apply, make sure that not only does 50% of your sales revenue come from the automotive supply sector, but you have these supporting documents:

  • at least 2 years of financial statements
  • a completed Excel Supplementary Spreadsheet
  • a copy of your Articles of Incorporation
  • letters of attestation of financial commitments from your CEO or CFO

Use the applicant guide for help in putting together and submitting your application, but if you’d like more information on the program, download this helpful PDF or send them an email.

This program isn’t accepting applications at the time of writing, but they will be opening the program back up in 2020, so check back for updates.

Ministry of Francophone Affairs Francophone Community Grants Program, Economic Development Stream

Ontario has a large Francophone community, and as such, it has earmarked funds designed to help Ontario businesses promote the economic development of the Francophone community.

To qualify for funding though, your for-profit business has to have at least 3 employees, have operated in Ontario for at least 2 years, be registered or incorporated, and meet at least one of these key requirements:

  • operate in a Francophone community (where at least 15% of the population is Francophone)
  • deliver products and/or services to an Ontario Francophone market
  • present a realistic business expansion plan (with market data) to start operating in or providing products/services to an Ontario Francophone market
  • partner with a regional, national, or international organization to bring products and services to Ontario to increase their availability to Francophones

Just register with Transfer Payment Ontario to apply but ensure you have these documents ready and you submit them with your application:

  1. proofs of registration and/or incorporation
  2. previous year’s financial statements (independently reviewed or audited) OR Statements of Business or Professional Activities (T2125 Form) OR Statements of Partnership Income (Form T5013) for the last two fiscal years
  3. Notices of Assessment issued by the CRA for the last 2 fiscal years
  4. payroll ledger for the previous quarter
  5. proof of insurance
  6. letter(s) of support confirming all cash contributions from partners

The program recommends you get in touch with a regional advisor before you start the application process. And it may be a good idea to do that soon if you’re interested in this program because they’ll be announcing the new program dates in early winter 2020 (so any time now!). You can also attend an online information session, so check back often for those new dates as well.

For guidance on maneuvering through the application process and ensuring you have everything you need, be sure to read through the guidelines, and for answers to any additional questions you may have, check out the FAQs.

Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund Corporation Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund

Now it’s on to the tourism industry!

This funding program is perfect for Ontario arts, cultural, or heritage nonprofits that 

want to create and promote a new event, or expand an existing one, aimed at attracting new tourists to Ontario, thereby increasing the industry’s revenue.

As long as you’re also incorporated and Ontario-based, and have been for at least a year, and your main mandate is the presentation of arts, heritage, or cultural programming or the preservation and presentation of arts and heritage resources in Ontario, you’ll qualify.

But that’s where the uncomplicated stops, so take a close look at how the funding works:

  1. For a project expected to cost more than $1 million, you can expect to end up with 33% of your project costs covered to a maximum of 3 times your private-sector sponsorships and donations.
  2. For a project expected to cost between $100,000 and $1 million, you can expect to end up with 50% of your project costs covered to a maximum of 5 times your private-sector sponsorships and donations.
  3. For a project expected to cost less than $100,000, you can expect to end up with up to 66% of your project costs covered for project.
  4. For all projects from Northern Ontario or projects coming from cities and municipal regions with less than 100,000 people, you can expect to end up with funding equalling the same as those expected to cost less than $100,000.

But, your organization will be expected to repay a certain amount of your funding according to cost:

  1. 1For projects costing more than $10 million, you’ll repay 15% of the project’s revenue to a maximum of 50% of OCAF’s funding.
  2. 2For projects costing between $1 million and $10 million, you’ll repay 15% of the project’s revenue to a maximum of 40% of OCAF’s funding.
  3. 3For projects with costing up to $1 million/year, you’ll repay 15% of the project’s revenue to a maximum of 30% of OCAF’s funding.
  4. 4For projects in Northern Ontario or from cities and municipalities with less than 100,000 people, you’ll repay the same as projects costing up to $1 million.

Now that you’ve got the funding figured out, rest assured the application process isn’t quite so complicated. It is a two-step process, however.

In stage 1, you’ll complete a two-page form with basic information about the proposed project and target market. Then if OFAC approves that, you’ll be invited to move on to stage 2.

Here, you’ll have to create and submit a detailed business case that includes a marketing plan, attendance and revenue projections, and an analysis of the benefits to the community. Know that some organizations will also need to provide audited financial statements.

There are no deadlines to apply for stage 1, but there are for stage 2. The next ones are February 28, 2020; May 1, 2020; and May 29, 2020. And while no deadlines exist for stage 1, they do recommend you begin preparing and applying no later than 9 months before you expect to hold your event.

Feel free to call 1-877-386-8029 toll free or contact them personally for more information:

Kathleen Sharpe, Executive Director
416.969.7421
ksharpe@ocaf.ca

Thomas Vaughan, Associate Director
416.969.7449
tvaughan@ocaf.ca

Tax Credits/Refunds

Ontario Creates Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit

Large and small businesses throughout Ontario can claim this tax credit if you produce, market, and distribute digital gaming for children 12 and under. 

Qualifying products have been expanded to include not only digital games but also mobile apps, e-learning products, and more. The list isn’t exhaustive, so feel free to send them an email if you’re unsure if your product qualifies.

This tax credit is designed to help with the cost of your labour, marketing, and distribution expenses associated with the products you create. If you qualify for this credit, you could get either a 35% or 40% tax credit, depending on your situation. There is a cap of $100,000, however.

And you will qualify if you meet these criteria:

  1. you’re a Canadian company (Canadian or foreign-owned)
  2. you create an eligible product at a permanent Ontario location
  3. you file an Ontario tax return
  4. your product uses 2 of 3 presentation forms to deliver the information (text, sound, or image) integral to the purpose of your digital product
  5. you have at least $500,000 in labour costs to develop your product.

Qualifying doesn’t get easier than that. Once you’ve determined you’re eligible for the credit, all you have to do is apply to Ontario Creates for a certificate of eligibility, then fill it out and send it in with your tax return.

Just make sure you also send in a T2 Corporation Income Tax Return and a completed Schedule 560, Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit for each and every game or credit that’s been deemed eligible.

There’s only one other note of warning: because there are additional Ontario tax credits in the entertainment sector, you can only claim this one if you haven’t claimed any of the others in that year. Those tax credits include the Ontario computer animation and special effects tax credit, the Ontario film and television tax credit, and the Ontario production services tax credit.

To get started, open up the online application portal and follow the instructions for filling in the necessary information.

For more information about specific products, special rules for large corporations, and more, head here. If you have questions or need a bit of help navigating through the application process, get in touch with them in 1 of 3 ways:

Tax Credits & Financing Programs
Ontario Creates
175 Bloor St. East, South Tower, Suite 501
Toronto, ON M4W 3R8
Phone 416.642.6659

taxcredits@ontariocreates.ca

Incentives Available only in Southern Ontario

It even pays to operate in specific Ontario zones! For those lucky organizations, you’ll find some interesting funding programs not available to anyone anywhere else, so you’ll have much less competition for funds. And you may even find you can stack funding programs, making the cost so much less painful.

Grants

FedDev Ontario Community Economic Development and Diversification Stream 3, Not-for-Profit Organizations, Rural Growth and Innovation in Southern Ontario

To help develop the market in your area, the federal government diverts funds to Ontario for this grant program. Its goal is to improve the market by promoting small business development in a variety of ways such as innovation and collaboration.

Your qualifying nonprofit organization could find itself with between $250,000 and $5 million per project if your intent is to help develop, diversify, and transform your local economy. This is expected to be up to 75% of your eligible costs (except for the odd exceptional circumstance), and the amount of government funding for your project can’t be more than 100% of the total project cost.

So the only question is, do you qualify? The answer could be yes if you’re a nonprofit (including Indigenous groups, Community Futures Development Corporations, cooperatives, municipal groups, business incubators or accelerators, or any industry group that can legally enter into a contribution agreement) situated in Ontario.

If this is you, just submit an application online whenever you’re ready. They take applications for this program on an ongoing basis, but be aware that all projects have to be finished by December 31, 2023.

And one more point to note: it’s good idea to get in touch with them before you send in your application just so you can get clearer picture of whether your group and project qualify and you have everything you need to ensure a smooth process.

Follow this step-by-step guide through the application process and take a look at the FAQs for answers to the questions that pop up as you go. If you need additional assistance or have a question not in the FAQs, don’t hesitate to get in touch via email or phone at 1-866-593-5505.

Other

FedDev Ontario Stream 2 Regional Innovation Ecosystem

Are you a Southern Ontario SME ready to improve your competitiveness and your local market’s growth? Then jump on this loan program to nab 50% of your project costs, from a minimum of $500,000 to a maximum of $10 million, 

but keep in mind that while there is no interest due on the contribution, you do have to repay it eventually. You’ll also have to put up the other half of project costs yourself—in cash.

Sometimes all you need to get your project off the ground though is the funds to start. You can pay back your head start with future revenue, so ahead and apply!

You’ll qualify if you’re an SME located in Ontario that can enter into legal agreements and fits one of these categories:

  • a group or an alliance such as an industry association or consortium
  • postsecondary institution
  • innovation centre
  • business accelerator and incubator
  • angel network
  • Indigenous organization
  • Community Futures Development Corporation
  • co-operative
  • municipality or municipal group

Even if your organization qualifies, you’ll still need to show proof you have your share of project funding and a strong plan with realistic goals your project can achieve and provable cost estimates. Finally, be prepared to show that there is demand in the market or industry for your organization’s product.

If you should decide to apply, just get in touch with the program first, and then you can apply online. Here’s a guide to help you through the process, and if you find yourself with questions, take a look at the FAQs.

Apply without delay because while there’s no deadline to apply, all project activities must be done by December 31, 2023.

For more information, send them an email or give them a call at 1-866-593-5505.

Incentives Available only in Southern and Eastern Ontario

What, you thought we were done with Southern Ontario? Think again, and then check out this funding program for both Southern and Eastern Ontario!

Other

Government of Ontario Regional Development Program: Eastern and Southwestern Ontario Development Fund, Business Projects

Whether your business is for- or nonprofit, take advantage of this opportunity solely for organizations in Eastern or Southern Ontario that improve economic development in the area. 

This funding program considers economic development to result in such outcomes as creating jobs, attracting greater private sector investment, and encouraging innovation.

You could get as much as 15% of your costs funded, interest free, to a maximum of $5 million for loans throughout the course of your project, up to 4 years maximum. This 15%, though, has a cap of $500,000 for businesses in rural areas with less than 100 employees and $1.5 million for strategic projects competing against other areas or that are foreign direct investments.

Now, this funding starts off as a loan, but if your business attains your job and investment targets, they’ll forgive as much as 30% of the loan.

So, can your organization’s project create at least 5 new jobs (or what amounts to a 30% increase in rural areas)? Do you employ at least 10 people already, have at least 3 years of financials and operating experience, and have no less than $500,000, or $200,000 in rural areas, to invest in your project?

If you answered yes to all of the above and you’re located in, or planning to locate to, Eastern or Southern Ontario, then apply now, because the deadlines to apply never fail to come up fast. The next one is April 20, 2020, with the remaining ones being July 20, 2020, and October 19, 2020.

Just talk to a regional advisor to begin your application, send in your eligibility checklist after you register with Transfer Payment Ontario, and then in conjunction with your regional advisor, fill in and send in your application forms. You can find the application forms you need and some guidelines at Transfer Payment Ontario.

And just in case you’re wondering what areas, exactly, constitute Eastern and Southern Ontario, here’s a list for you:

Frontenac

Leeds and Grenville

Peterborough

Haliburton

Lennox and Addington

Prescott and Russell

Hastings

Muskoka

Prince Edward

Kawartha Lakes

Northumberland

Renfrew

Lanark

Ottawa

Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry

For specific questions about your application, shoot them an email or call 1-800-267-6592, ext. 224 toll free, but if you’d just like to know more, send your email here.

Incentives Available only in Northern Ontario

Yes, it’s finally your turn Northern Ontario. If your organization is located here, you can find all sorts of funding programs designed to improve a variety of markets and communities in this lesser populated area.

Grants

FedNor Regional Innovation Ecosystems Stream under the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation (REGI) Program

This FedNor program wants to invest in organizations of all shapes and sizes to bring everyone together to improve economic growth and innovation in the area.

To that end, if you and your project qualify, FedNor could give you up to 75% of proven and eligible costs. And if your circumstance or project is exceptional, they may even cover all the costs in the end.

While every size and shape of organization is be eligible, you also have to be a legal body that can enter into legal agreements, and your project must benefit Northern Ontario.

It’s simple to apply. Just submit an application after reading through the guidelines and send in all supporting documents with it. Though it’s easy to qualify and apply, the list of supporting evidence you need to send in isn’t quite so easy. Here’s what you’ll need to send in with your application:

  1. proof you have the remaining funding (if any is needed)
  2. proof you can reach your project’s goals in a timely way in relation to management, technical and operational aspects, and finances
  3. proof of the demand for your project in your market or industry
  4. a quantifiable plan that includes cost estimates that can be proven and has realistic results
  5. possibly, proof your project can continue without assistance upon completion

Once you’ve met all those requirements, just hang tight while they review your application. However, don’t relax just yet. That was just phase one. Next up will be the detailed application if your initial application is accepted.

This application will require more supporting documents, such as a detailed business plan, financial statements, and your Articles of Incorporation. When they assess this part of your application, they’ll analyze it for a variety of factors, the list of which is far too long to include here, so take a look here if you’re curious.

You should know there is one more condition: any project that results in profits will have to be paid back, any project resulting in the common good without profit will not.

Go here to apply, and email them or give them a call at 1-877-333-6673 to learn more.

FedNor Community Economic Development under the Northern Ontario Development Program (NODP)

The aim of this program is solely to support the economic business growth, resource mobilization, and opportunity exploitation of Northern Ontario communities.

Any organization, except for-profits, located in Northern Ontario with those goals could be eligible for this grant, which could see you with up to 33% of funding for your capital costs and up to 50% of funding for noncapital costs. You do have to provide at least 10% of the total project cost yourself though.

The only other helpful criteria is that your project should foster economic growth for Northern Ontario, especially in certain sectors such as mining and agri-food (There are more sectors too.).

As with the program detailed above, this is also a two-phase application process. So, first send in an application online that includes contact and project information, and then be ready to apply for phase two by getting everything you need together so they can assess your application against the key factors listed here, such as the economic and innovation benefits of the project.

Feel free to get in touch with them by email or phone if you questions or just want more information.

FedNor Community Investment Initiative for Northern Ontario (CIINO) under the Northern Ontario Development Program (NODP)

FedNor has numerous programs for Northern Ontario communities. This one offers grants to Indigenous communities, Tribal groups on behalf of multiple communities, Community Futures Development Corporations, and rural municipalities.

The purpose of this grant is to bring communities and community groups together to benefit the region by providing economic opportunities such as job creation and sector development.

If you’re one of the eligible groups listed above and you’re located in Northern Ontario, you could qualify for funding for your project up to 90% of the total cost to a maximum of $100,000/year for up to 3 years. Larger regional projects with multiple partners could even qualify for up to $170,000.

Qualifying groups will also have to submit an attestation that you don’t have a full-time economic development officer position in your group, you have an existing economic plan or strategy with concrete, achievable outcomes you need financial support for, and you can show you have the manpower to complete the project.

Should your organization meet all the requirements laid out by this program, just get in touch with a FedNor Officer to discuss your proposal, and then apply online for phase one of the application process.

While you’re waiting to clear phase one, get your supporting documents together that you’ll have to submit to complete phase two: a detailed business plan, financial statements, and your Articles of Incorporation. Your FedNor Officer will give you everything else you need.

Read through the application guide for help maneuvering through the process, and for more information, contact a FedNor Officer or call them toll-free at 1-877-333-6673.

FedNor Economic Development Initiative (EDI) under the Northern Ontario Development Program (NODP)

In some parts of Canada, it can be easy forget for a while that we’re an officially bilingual country. FedNor seeks to enhance that duality though by offering funding to organizations working to or wanting to work to improve the economic opportunities in Northern Ontario Francophone communities.

Any Francophone organization located in Northern Ontario can qualify for this one as long as you contribute no less than 10% of the cost and your project will help develop Francophone communities or enterprises in some way, such as creating new jobs, products, or services or increasing trade, investment, or numbers of SMEs. You could even use this grant to hire a youth intern!

This is another of those repayable or nonrepayable programs though. So, while you could get up to 90% of your project financially covered, you will have to pay the initial investment amount back if you make a profit from your newly developed plan.

You can apply any time you like by simply filling in and submitting an application form online, which will include your contact and project information. Then, since this is FedNor, you’ll wait for your first application to be accepted before moving on to phase two. Make sure you read through the guidelines before you begin though, so you have a clearer idea of the process and what you’ll need.

Once you’ve made it through phase one, you’ll submit a detailed business plan, financial statements, and Articles of Incorporation in a manner your FedNor Officer will discuss with you.

This program too has plenty of criteria they will compare your project proposal to, such as proving you have the expertise and resources needed to complete the proposed project and an established, clear project-governance structure and decision-making process, so take a look at the whole list here so you’re prepared.

Should you want to learn more, feel free to look up your local FedNor Officer or call them toll-free at 1-877-333-6673.

Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) Strategic Economic Infrastructure Program: Partnership Projects

It would seem the place to be for financial incentives for businesses is Northern Ontario.

This program funds those organizations that have projects planned that could boost the Northern Ontario market by creating jobs and opening up opportunities. Should you have an eligible project, this program could cover up to 50% of the costs up to $1 million.

Typical projects they’re looking for include those that support redeveloping brownfield sites and/or encourage infill development, building industrial parks (preferably if they’re to be located on vacant or underused lots in an area that was once developed), generating information/communications technology infrastructure, and producing tourism infrastructure for major events.

Nonprofits, for-profits, Indigenous groups, academic institutions, and municipalities (or a partnership of 2 or more) could all qualify for funding. Not all funding under this program falls into the grant category, however. Your funding could end up being repayable out of future revenue or come with conditions attached, but you could be lucky enough to scoop a nonrepayable grant. You’ll only know after you apply.

So apply now so you find out! Also apply now because come March 31, 2020, they won’t be accepting any more applications.

To apply, start by creating an online account by clicking the Apply Now button at the bottom of the screen. Then just follow the instructions and hit Submit!

If you’re just curious at this point, start by reading through their FAQs, and if you have questions or still need more info, fill in one of the online forms, send them an email, or give them a call at 1-705-945-6700 or 1-800-461-8329 toll free. You could even send them an inquiry using snail mail if you like:

Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation
Roberta Bondar Place 70 Foster Drive, Suite 200
Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 6V8

Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) Northern Community Capacity Building Program: Partnership Projects

This program, also delivered by the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, was designed to help Northern Ontario communities capacity build. 

It exists to support projects that support and promote economic growth in the area. Projects with this purpose generally look like one of these, though others could also qualify:

  • infrastructure requirement studies
  • capacity assessment
  • sector-based research projects
  • regional economic development plans
  • business retention and attraction strategies

All organizations of any sort qualify just like the program above, as do partnerships of 2 organizations or more. Private companies can’t apply alone, however. They must be part of a partnership with a nonprofit organization.

You could get up to $50,000, or 75% of your project costs, for individual projects. Partnership projects could receive 75% funding, up to $100,000.

As with the previous project, just create an online account by clicking on the Apply Now button and be sure to hit Submit at the end of the process. Be aware you’ll have to submit supporting documents as well, such as these:

  1. a municipal council or band council resolution, a local services board bylaw, nonprofit board of directors’ resolution to confirm support, or some other proof of mandate as applicable
  2. a municipal council resolution or band council resolution, a local services board bylaw, or any other document confirming support from each of the represented organizations for regional applications
  3. a list of previous funding received by all partner organizations related to the proposed project or to similar activities funded in the last 5 years

Once you’ve applied, you can expect to hear from them in 2 to 4 weeks. Don’t delay putting in your application if you have a project and/or partnership because this program too closes on March 31, 2020.

If you want more details, have questions, or would like some guidance, take a look at their FAQs or fill out and send one of the online forms. If you’d still like to talk to them, you can contact them in a few ways:

By phone
General inquiry: 1-705-945-6700
Toll free: 1-800-461-8329

By email: AskNOHFC@ontario.ca

By mail
Main Office
Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation
Roberta Bondar Place 70 Foster Drive, Suite 200
Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 6V8

Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) Northern Event Partnership Program: Partnership Projects

And here’s your last program from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund. If your organization is preparing to host an event that could result in creating and retaining jobs or attracting investments to the Northern Ontario area, you could find yourself with some funding. 

You could even receive funding if your event could result in increased tourism or research and development that would improve productivity in Northern Ontario.

If this sounds like your event, apply now to get 30% of your eligible costs to a maximum of $15,000, whichever is less. You could even get 50% of the funds right away—as soon as the legal agreement is signed if you really need it to complete the event. Otherwise, they’ll send you all the funds once the event is over.

This program also closes on March 31, 2020, so apply soon, but make sure you’re a nonprofit, municipality, Indigenous or academic group, a local service board, or some other nonprofit group representing another eligible group. Partnerships are also eligible, and for-profit or private organizations—and even the federal government—can qualify as a partner.

Just create an account using the button at the bottom of the screen to apply, fill out your information, hit Submit, and then hang tight for 2 to 4 weeks while they decide whether or not to help fund your event. Know that you will have to submit a final report if you’re accepted into the program. It should include such specifics as a final event agenda, attendee evaluations, anticipated long-term impacts, or anything else that may be applicable to your event.

Just make sure you apply no less than 16 weeks before your event!

As with their other programs, to learn more, read through the FAQs, fill out the relevant online form, email them, give them a call at 1-705-945-6700 or 1-800-461-8329 toll free, or send them an inquiry via mail to

Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation
Roberta Bondar Place 70 Foster Drive, Suite 200
Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 6V8

This Bottom Line

Now is the time to come up with or introduce a great project to grow and develop your market. With this many funding programs available, your options are wide open, and the cost won’t be nearly so intimidating or painful. There are some for a variety of sectors, and even some exciting new sectors.

Besides, you’ll only benefit yourself by working to improve the market for yourself and others. And considering many of these programs require partnerships, you could even find yourself with some valuable allies and some even better contacts for future business and/or market development. It pays to contribute!


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