The RED program is closed and is not accepting applications. 

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 and labour force challenges, better position rural communities to attract or retain 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

This page provides a summary of the RED program. Read the RED program guidelines for the full details about eligibility, program funding and application requirements.

Who is eligible

To be eligible to apply to the RED 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 timeframe of the project cannot be extended without the written approval of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (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

This stream supports a range of projects to better position rural communities to attract and retain jobs, attract investment and enhance economic growth.

All costs for projects in this stream must be non-capital.

This table summarizes the eligible project types.

Project typeDescriptionExample projects
Entrepreneurship/Business successionProjects 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 expansionProjects that proactively engage the local or regional business community to identify and implement actions that address barriers to business growth
Downtown revitalizationProjects that focus on identifying and implementing actions that improve and promote traditional downtowns
  • Projects that are part of OMAFRA's Downtown Revitalization (DR) Program with activities including:
    • growing customer traffic
    • attracting businesses to locate in downtowns through marketing activities
    • a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) with an implementation component
Technology adoption/innovation initiativesProjects that support businesses and communities to improve their digital capabilities and participate in the information economy
  • Digital training and support services for businesses
  • Improving development and planning approvals process
  • Coordination of business approvals (for example, licensing, public health, permits)
Attraction and retention of workers/immigrants/youthProjects that implement strategies for attracting and retaining workers
  • Employee-pooling projects
  • Workforce-oriented policy/regulatory improvements
  • Workforce attraction marketing
  • Career days/events
  • Network development (service providers/ businesses)
  • Workforce or sector-based training
  • Youth training
  • Intern/apprentice matching system
Collaborative marketing and outreachProjects that implement marketing or promotional activities outlined in an existing marketing or communications plan that will have an impact across multiple communities in a region
  • Promotional campaigns across at least 2 communities (for example, investment attraction, tourism)
Sector/value chain developmentProjects 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

This stream focuses on economic infrastructure projects that improve physical community assets identified as strategically important to the community.

The majority of costs for projects in this stream must be minor capital costs.

The table summarizes the eligible project types.

Project typeDescriptionExample projects
Rehabilitation of cultural, heritage or tourism attractionsMinor 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
  • Rehabilitation of a historical building or structure
  • Rehabilitation of an established tourism attraction
  • Recreational trail rehabilitation
Redevelopment of vacant and/or underutilized buildingsMinor 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 landscapingMinor capital projects as defined through previously completed strategies that improve the design quality of public areas
  • Wayfinding signage
  • Beautification (for example, decorative lighting, banners, murals, street furniture, public art, trees)
  • Wi-fi 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 included the project takes place in and benefits rural Ontario
  • alignment with the RED program’s outcomes
  • collaboration and partnerships
  • reducing economic barriers
  • regional, sector or value chain impacts
  • project work plan
  • project budget, including reasonable and eligible project costs
  • financial commitment
  • sustainability beyond the project timelines
  • project oversight


The lead applicant will be notified as funding decisions are reached, usually within 3 months from the posted intake closure date, however, timing may vary.