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Weldon LeBlanc: The state of the city

Friday, January 29th, 2010 | 5:00 am

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Weldon LeBlanc

By Weldon LeBlanc

What are the priorities for Kelowna in 2010? What did we accomplish in 2009?

We’ll find out on February 10th as Her Worship Mayor Sharon Shepherd will present the 2010 State of the City Address, hosted by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

2009 has been an interesting year for business, and 2010 is anticipated to be a rollercoaster ride as we continue our climb out of the economic downturn. It is hoped the Mayor’s presentation will touch on the accomplishments of 2009, but more importantly address key opportunities and challenges facing our economy.

In a survey undertaken by the Kelowna Chamber and Meyers Norris Penny in October 2009 businesses were upbeat about 2010.

96 per cent of respondents expect to perform the same or better than in 2009
47 per cent will be investing in their company (primarily in equipment and technology)
62.4 per cent will maintain the same staffing levels in 2010
34 per cent will be hiring new people in areas such as sales, technical, clerical

What are the strengths of Kelowna and the Okanagan as a region as a whole?

In October 2009, BMO Capital Markets Economics identified Kelowna as the top small-business hotbed in Canada. Here are a few nuggets about Kelowna from the report:

Longer-term growth is supported by the recent runway extension of Kelowna’s international airport to accommodate overseas flights,
the opening of a new bridge across Lake Okanagan which has helped to alleviate some of the traffic congestion.
the Kelowna CMA has approximately 180,000 residents,
is the third-largest metropolitan area in the province

With a regional population of 450,000 Kelowna is the largest centre for urban development, business, commercial, retail, and health care services between the Lower Mainland and Calgary. This large economic base positions Kelowna very nicely for future economic stability.

What are the future economic opportunities for Kelowna?

The BMO report indicates that small businesses account for more than two-thirds of total employment in the non-institutional health care sector.  As the population ages, there are long-term growth opportunities for companies providing services to this industry. As a “small-business hot-bed”, Kelowna is well positioned to benefit from this change in demographics.

Another sector highlighted by the BMO report relates to the growing importance of the Internet as a mechanism for small businesses to advertise, market, and distribute their services and products. Locally we have seen companies successfully incubated in Kelowna such as Club Penguin and Yourtechon-line which have found their niche in the internet market.

Kelowna has talent, drive, and an increasing profile as a centre of excellence for technology…expect more from this sector in the future.  Metabridge Kelowna 2010 will be hosted in Kelowna this summer which will enhance our profile. It is a world class event which will bring to Kelowna leading executives and investors of the tech industry from across Canada, the United States, and Europe.

The Kelowna International Airport is a key economic asset in the future growth of this region. Opening new global markets (North America, Asia, and Europe) for existing companies will provide growth potential for this region, and the airport plays a pivotal role.

Recent improvements to the airport makes the Okanagan well situated to compete more effectively in global markets. In addition, efforts are underway to address restrictions which hinder our ability to attract more international carriers. As the 10th busiest airport in Canada, it is anticipated that passenger growth will reach 1.6 million passengers by 2015.

Those are some of the opportunities; what are key challenges? Respondents to the business survey indicated that the largest obstacles for 2010 are expected to be:
Economic slowdown
Decreased consumer confidence & spending
Increased level of competition
Harmonization of taxes
Availability of qualified people
Lack of capital

There are other sectors which will add to Kelowna’s economic stability such as continued growth as a centre for education (post-secondary institutions), film industry, tourism (wine and golf sectors), and numerous others.  On February 10th we’ll find out what role the City will play in taking advantage of these opportunities, and overcoming the challenges.

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One Response to “Weldon LeBlanc: The state of the city”

  1. Ryanna says:
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    It will be very interesting to hear what key areas Mayor Sharon Shepherd will address. We have a tremendous potential to develop some very strong industries such as the Film Industry and up-scale tourism that would employ a myriad of talent and support sustained growth here. In the film industry, in particular, we can ease some of the competition in the community by working together to entice larger investment from outside of the Okanagan Valley. It is encouraging that the business people in our community are expecting an improvement for 2010, I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm among the many I’ve recently met. I look forward to being a part of a thriving business community and I have confidence in Mayor Sharon Shepherd to lead us into a prosperous year and beyond.

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link