PENTICTON - Penticton Economic Development Officer Colleen Pennington is looking forward to 2015 as the city’s initiatives show signs of bearing economic fruit.
Pennington said 2014 ended well, with the December announcement of Sangsters takeover of the former Trophic Nutritional Supplements building in the city’s industrial area.
Pennington also noted the arrival of Jet Power and Controls in Penticton last August.
“They continue to have a manufacturing plant in Alberta, but they also have one here too, mainly for access to skilled trades,” she said. The two new companies provided "some nice positive growth in industries not in the service sector, and not in the lowest wage category."
Roughly two-thirds of the labour market in the South Okanagan-Similkameen are predicting growth in the coming years, Pennington noted, adding that growth should lead to an uptick in employment in the region.
She said the new council is strongly business minded, which should also be a plus for the city.
“I’m really grateful to the citizens of Penticton, they did a good job, picking a council that has good solid background," Pennington said. "I think that all bodes well for making sure our policy and decision making continues to support business.”
According to Pennington, a good example of council’s willingness to help business came through a minor amendment at a recent council meeting, over a requirement stipulating properties could only have one sewer and irrigation connection.
“Councillor Konanz and I made a number of business visits, where businesses said, 'Why can’t we have more than one sewer connection? We have big lots, you have sewer lines running up both sides of us,’" Pennington said. "We went back to operations and asked if there was a operational cost for this requirement. There wasn’t, so it was just taken out.”
She said the city is acquiring an attitude that looks at such unnecessary legislation, and removes or modifies it.
“We’re not asking the question ‘What do we need this for?’ or ‘Why are we doing this?’ as quickly as in the private sector, but the asking of the question is making us look at all those things,” she said.
She noted the city’s recent nomination for a Canadian Federation of Independent Business Golden Scissors Award, expressing hope this year’s activities in the city would garner a nomination next year as well. The new attitude was making the city an easier sell.
“Two years ago, I was knocking on doors, now I’m getting people calling. There’s definitely been a swing in momentum,” Pennington said.
Some of the increases in the city’s economic development budget is also being shared with tourism this year.
Pennington said the city’s commitment to the Go Media convention, having earmarked $125,000 toward the high profile tourism convention that will be staged in Penticton later this year. The budget for staffing also increased by $110,000, for an intern and sales position.
“We have funding for a sport tourism position, which I anticipate will end up in Tourism Penticton,” she said.
The city’s tourism and economic development offices have also met with Penticton Hospitality Association members to discuss marketing of sports tourism in the city. The combined groups' first step involved trying to get the tools together to create a unique South Okanagan sports tourism experience for visitors. Second step will involve getting the word out, and the third step will be about “really differentiating ourselves.”
Something else that encourages Pennington is a growing recognition, regionally, that collaboration will contribute to the area’s economic success.
“There’s a view towards regional collaboration on the economic development side, certainly for the first time since I’ve been here, we’ve been meeting as a group, trying to prioritize regional initiatives. That didn’t happen two years ago," Pennington said. “I think the attitude, the culture, the leadership has changed here a lot,” she said.
Pennington said her experience has been people buy houses here and they move their business here because they get exposure to the community.
"I don’ t have to sell the community, I have to get awareness," she said. "If I can get awareness, which comes through those tourism events, it cascades into more residential growth and more business growth.”
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