KITCHENER - The provincial government announced it will invest more than $100 million into a Regional Development Program that will help with business growth in Eastern and Southwestern Ontario.

Vic Fedeli, the Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade in Ontario, was in Woodstock Monday evening to make the announcement.

The Regional Development Program will see the $100 million invested over a four year period.

The program is part of the government’s commitment to transform business supports, being one of five Smart Initiatives recently announced by the province.

Under the program it will be easier for small and medium-sized businesses to receive financial support through the existing Eastern Ontario Development Fund and the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund, as well as now gaining access to a range of services and supports.

"We want to let them know Ontario's open for jobs, open for business and they're a big part of our business community," said Fedeli.

Applicants will also know within 60 business days after the application deadline whether a funding decision has been made and if they’re eligible to receive the supports and services.

The new program will also allow businesses with 10 or more employees, or five if located in a rural area, to qualify.

"They're going to open it up so that there are better opportunities for smaller companies, they don't have to meet increased thresholds for employment, so it's good news for small and medium-sized companies," said Len Magyar, the Development Commissioner with the City of Woodstock.

This time around financial support will be available to eligible municipalities, industry groups, and not-for-profits.

According to the Ontario government there are over 470,000 small businesses in Ontario, accounting for more than 23 per cent of all business in the province.

The new program starts immediately and applications will be accepted four times a year starting December 2nd.