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LOOK BACK 2013: Chief leads band to success

Chief Jonathan Kruger wants nothing less than the Penticton Indian Band and the City of Penticton to be the capital of the south Okanagan.
December 31, 2013 - 8:26 AM

 PENTICTON - Chief Jonathan Kruger might be Penticton Indian Band's best natural asset.

Much like Westbank First Nation and Osoyoos Indian Band, the Penticton native community is turning what they already have into huge opportunities for their residents and the area at large and it was arguably due to leadership more than anything else. Osoyoo's Chief Clarence Louie and Westbank's Chief Robert Louie are spearheading massive developments including a new prison in the Oliver area and a for-profit hospital resort in West Kelowna.

Kruger said he is about creating instant realities in their community. The band surveyed what its people wanted, from the youngest to the oldest, and set about making those dreams come true.

The biggest and most visible project so far would be the 600-home Skaha Hills resort. While the city struggles to find land for housing development the band turned one of its best vistas into a $250-million landmark. The units will be high-end homes, averaging around $400,000 each. Skaha HIlls will also have a golf course, retail outlets, a vineyard, a winery and a hotel.

The band has also developed the biggest gravel pit in the south Okanagan, created the largest trucking company in Penticton, erected a three-storey log house day care and a state-of-the-art elementary and culture center. The band is also the water license holder for Eneas Lake which will have a new $3 million dam. The band is also chasing a large retail project that will line their side of the channel.

The ambition and aggressive business-first attitude also extends to smaller projects such as the Coyote Cruises river channel service. Earlier this year taxi companies complained about customers paying $5 for bus service at the beginning of the channel ride. This meant floaters would avoid the taxis parked at the Skaha Lake end of the channel.

"That's business," Kruger had said about the up-front fees. "We are not going to change what we are doing. It's very successful for us."

The band is also getting in the music business although there's been a few stumbling steps. The Boonstock music festival will be held next year on land owned be a few band locatees. The festival selected Penticton after facing negative pressure in its birthplace, Sturgeon County, AB but it faced a bit of controversy with Penticton city council.

Mayor Garry Litke said it needs to present a detailed security plan before looking for the city's blessing and Kruger stressed the concert is OK as "long as it's done in a safe manner."

To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at squesnel@infotelnews.ca, call 250-488-3065, send tweets to @shannonquesnel1 or @InfoNewsPentict.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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