Funding to help create jobs and boost growth in your rural community.

The RED program is now open and accepting applications. This intake will close on February 24, 2020.

How it works

Ontario’s Rural Economic Development (RED) program provides cost-share funding to support activities that create strong rural communities in Ontario, and opens doors to rural economic development through:

  • funding assistance to address barriers to economic development, better position rural communities to attract and retain jobs and investment, and enhance economic growth
  • funding to build community capacity and support for economic development in Ontario’s rural communities
  • investments in rural communities to help diversify and grow local economies – making economic growth more inclusive so Rural Ontario continues to share in the province’s economic prosperity

Who is eligible

To be eligible for the program you must be:

  • a municipality
  • a not-for-profit entity
  • an Ontario Indigenous community or organization
  • a Local Services Board

Funding amounts

Economic Diversification and Competitiveness Stream: up to 50% of eligible project costs to a maximum of $150,000.

Strategic Economic Infrastructure Stream: up to 30% of eligible project costs to a maximum of $250,000.

Calculation of Costs

The calculation of cost-share funding for all selected projects will be based on the total eligible costs outlined in the application.

  • Funding may be provided at the amount or percentage requested, or at a reduced amount or percentage (subject to limits within each stream).
  • The project’s maximum eligible costs cannot be increased.
  • The time frame of the project cannot be extended without the written approval of OMAFRA (in its sole discretion).

All selected applicants must enter into a contribution agreement with the Province of Ontario. All applicants have joint and several liability for any funded project.

Program streams

Economic Diversification and Competitiveness Stream

Economic diversification and competitiveness projects:

  • remove barriers to business and job growth
  • attract investment
  • attract or retain a skilled workforce
  • strengthen sector and regional partnerships
  • diversify regional economies in rural Ontario

The majority of costs for projects in this stream will be non-capital. Projects must include implementation-oriented activities beyond strategic plan development (for example, economic development, feasability, marketing, research or evaluation. 

The table below summarizes eligible project types.

Project Type Description Example Projects
Entrepreneurship / Business succession Projects that support business start-up or succession in the community
  • Coaching/mentorship
  • Business succession support (for example, connecting buyers and retiring business owners)
  • Familiarization tours
Business retention and expansion Projects that proactively engage the local or regional business community to identify and implement actions that address barriers to business growth
Downtown revitalization Projects that focus on identifying and implementing actions that improve and promote traditional town centres
Technology adoption / innovation initiatives Projects that support businesses and communities to improve their digital capabilities and participate in the information economy
  • Digital training
  • Community engagement and support services (for example, Digital Service Squad)
Service delivery improvement Projects to help municipalities and other organizations improve and better coordinate their development and business approvals processes
  • Improving development and planning approvals process
  • Coordination of business approvals (for example, licensing, public health, permits)
Attraction and retention of workers / immigrants / youth Projects that implement strategies for attracting and retaining people
  • Employee-pooling projects
  • Workforce-oriented policy/regulatory improvements
  • Destination marketing
  • Career days/events
  • Network development (service providers/ businesses)
Skills training and development Projects that implement strategies focused on identified regional skill requirements (for example, robotics, carpentry, lean manufacturing)
  • Sector-based training
  • Employee training
  • Youth training
  • Intern/apprentice matching system
Collaborative marketing and outreach Projects that implement marketing or promotional activities outlined in an existing marketing or communications plan that will have an impact across sectors, value chains, or multiple communities in a region
  • Promotional campaigns across at least two communities (for example, investment attraction, tourism)
  • Regional events (for example, innovation)
Sector/Value chain development Projects that implement strategies to strengthen and coordinate collaboration across sectors or value chains
  • Buyer-Seller forums
  • Network development (for example, events, coordination)
  • Specialized business training

Strategic Economic Infrastructure Stream

Strategic economic infrastructure projects advance economic development and investment opportunities in Rural Ontario, such as:

  • rehabilitation of cultural, heritage or tourism attractions
  • redevelopment of vacant or under-used properties
  • main street minor capital improvements

Applications for strategic economic infrastructure projects should include previously completed work (for example, plans, strategies, research and data) that identifies the project as an economic development priority. 

The table below summarizes eligible project types.

Project Type Description Example Projects
Rehabilitation of cultural, heritage or tourism attractions Minor capital projects that rehabilitate an existing cultural, heritage, or tourism attraction, as defined through previously completed strategies and projects that establish its significance for economic development
  • Restoration of a historical building or structure
  • Restoration of an established tourism attraction
  • Trail rehabilitation
Redevelopment of vacant and/or underutilized buildings Minor capital projects to redevelop interior of vacant and/or underutilized buildings to achieve an economic development outcome
  • Development of an incubator or innovation hub
  • Youth centre
  • Agri-food hubs
Streetscaping and landscaping Minor capital projects as defined through previously completed strategies that improve the design quality of public areas
  • Wayfinding signage
  • Beautification (for example, lighting, banners, murals, street furniture, public art, trees)
  • WiFi equipment/software for public use

Selection process

Once the application is submitted and the intake period closes, eligible applications will be assessed on the criteria outlined in these guidelines, including, for example:

  • basic eligibility criteria
  • reducing economic barriers
  • alignment with the Rural Economic Development program’s outcomes
  • project work plan
  • collaboration and partnerships
  • regional, sector, or value chain impacts
  • sustainability beyond the project timelines
  • project budget, including reasonable and eligible project costs
  • project oversight
  • financial commitment
  • financial capacity


Applicants will be notified as funding decisions are reached, usually within three months from the posted intake closure date; however, timing may vary. 


For more information, email [email protected]

Source: Government of Ontario