To drive a strong and diverse economy, rural Ontario municipalities must create the conditions necessary for businesses to thrive. This is no easy task to accomplish; not only do municipal governments need to conduct research and develop economic strategies, but they must also attract businesses and be actively involved in workforce attraction, retention, and development activities.

Fortunately, these are areas where economic development grants such as Ontario’s Rural Economic Development (RED) program play a key role. For many years, the RED program has provided rural municipalities and non-profits with Ontario government funding to offset the costs of economic development projects. The program’s funding has been critical to many rural municipalities in attracting investments from prestigious domestic and international businesses.

Through the Rural Economic Development program, municipalities and non-profits operating in rural Ontario may access up to 50% of eligible project costs to a maximum $100,000 in grant funding.

To get started with the RED program, municipalities and non-profits must prepare a comprehensive application package that includes the main application, letters of support, and other corresponding documentation. The program accepts application packages during defined intake dates; applicants are notified about their application’s status approximately four months after the intake round closes.

Rural Economic Development (RED) Grants: Funding Program Details

Rural Economic Development (RED) is an Ontario government grant that supports municipal governments and organizations leading projects to stimulate economic growth within their region. It offers cost-sharing assistance to help rural economic developers recover a portion of incurred project expenses.

Through the Rural Economic Development program, applicants may receive up to 50% of eligible project costs to a maximum $100,000 in Ontario government grants.

Administered by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), RED funding will offer support to a wide range of planning and implementation-related projects that:

  • Identify priorities and measure economic performance;
  • Attract, retain, and expand local businesses;
  • Create and sustain high-value jobs; and
  • Develop a highly-skilled, knowledge-based workforce.

Program Focus: Economic Development in Rural Ontario

The central focus of RED funding is to enhance economic conditions in rural Ontario. It maintains this focus by supporting projects that:

  • Take place in rural Ontario; or
  • Generate benefits for rural Ontario.

Rural Ontario is classified through the program as meeting at least one of the following criteria:

  1. Having a population of less than 100,000 people; and
  2. Having a population density of 100 people/square kilometre or less.

To determine whether your region is classified as rural or urban, please refer to the Government of Ontario’s Rural and Urban Areas map.

Rural Economic Development Program: Project Eligibility

The Rural Economic Development (RED) program provides funding for municipalities and non-profits for the planning and implementation of economic development projects. These include:

Economic Development Planning Projects

Planning projects funded through RED focus on building a foundation for economic growth. Eligible themes include:

  1. Developing Plans and Strategies: Developing economic development plans, business retention and expansion plans, community and downtown revitalization plans, and human capital/workforce planning.
  2. Conducting Applied Research and Analysis to Support Planning/Priority Setting: Conducting sector or economic analysis, collaborative research studies or evaluations, feasibility studies, market research, and marketing strategies.

Economic Development Implementation Projects

Implementation projects funded through RED focus on contributing to economic competitiveness. Eligible themes include:

  1. Sector Development and Economic Diversification: Providing business mentoring or training, building collaborative value chain/cluster relationships, establishing incubators and business accelerators, developing a regional business database, sharing best practices, and rehabilitating cultural, heritage, and tourism attractions.
  2. Marketing, Promotional, or Branding Projects: Developing and enhancing websites, implementing branding strategies, and performing outreach activities.
  3. Workforce Attraction, Retention,  and Development: Providing industry/sector-specific training, or performing targeted workforce, leadership, mentorship, and entrepreneurship development projects.

Applicants Eligible to Receive RED Funding

To be considered for the Rural Economic Development (RED) program, all applicants must be:

  • A non-profit organization, rural municipality, local services board, or Indigenous community;
  • Authorized to enter into a legal agreement; and
  • In compliance with legal requirements throughout the project.

How to Apply for RED Economic Development Grants

To apply for the Rural Economic Development program, eligible participants must develop a comprehensive application package and submit it during one of the program’s scheduled intake periods. Application packages typically consist of an application, letters of support, and other documentation that identifies why the project is a good fit.

The next intake period scheduled for Ontario’s Rural Economic Development program is July 30, 2018 to September 28, 2018.

Municipalities and non-profits are usually notified about the outcome of their application within four months of the intake closing. Once these organizations receive an approval from the program, funding-eligible expenses can be incurred.

To explore your eligibility for RED funding and learn how to optimize the funding application process, please contact Mentor Works Ltd.


This post originally appeared on Mentor Works. Mentor Works helps established for-profit companies find and leverage Canadian business grants and loans.