SEAFORTH, ONT. -- The banners out in front of Huron East’s town hall that say “Fight Unemployment” tell you what Janette Macdonald and Greg Plante hope to accomplish in Seaforth over the coming months.

“Our main streets are dying. We need to bring them back,” says Macdonald.

Seaforth will be the testing ground for a pilot project.

The goal - to accomplish what countless “Shop Local” campaigns have tried - with mixed results. That is to boost small town Ontario by trying to ''recover, recapture and regain' small town businesses.

“This is a full-blown social media and web campaign. It’s about asking people to take the challenge to spend 10 per cent of their disposable income in small, independent shops. Shift your spend,” says Macdonald.

Seaforth is an apt location for the small business pilot project, because not only has it dealt with a decline in shoppers due to COVID-19, the town’s Main Street has been under construction since April.

“Not only COVID, but construction. It was almost a double whammy, but we’re getting through it,” says Huron East’s Economic Development Officer Jan Hawley.

For local business owners like Kendra Jewitt of Blooms N Rooms, and Kelly Miller of Degree Fitness, the pilot project comes at just the right time.

“It’s been hard. We’ve had to change a lot of the things that we’re doing, and how we’re doing them. I’ve been working hard on my online presence,” says Jewitt.

“You don’t know if you don’t try. Support your local businesses. We do this because we want to be here and serve our community,” says Miller.

The “Fight Unemployment” project also comes with in-depth financial analysis for Seaforth’s small businesses.

Macdonald says by shopping at those small businesses, compared to a big box store, you keep 40 per cent more of the profit in the community.

Huron East Mayor Bernie Maclellan explains, “If you want the public to shop at home, you’ve got to give them a reason to do it. And if you actually show them that by shopping at home, even though at the start it might cost an extra dollar or $0.50 more than you would pay at a big box store, if you’re leaving more money in the community everyone gets a return on investment on that in the end."

Macdonald and Plante hope to expand their “Fight Unemployment” campaign across Huron County, and ultimately across Ontario.