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Province funding free enterprise in Kelowna

B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced $6-million in provincial funding to help build the Okanagan Centre for Innovation in downtown Kelowna on Monday, July 28, 2014.
July 28, 2014 - 2:05 PM

KELOWNA – The premier calls Monday’s announcement of $6 million to help build a state-of-the-art building to house the Okanagan Centre for Innovation “a pivotal change” for the local economy.

The six-storey office structure will be built on prime real estate owned by the city of Kelowna next to the Okanagan Regional Library at Ellis Street and Doyle Avenue. The land is worth about $2 million.

At a media conference on the roof top balcony of a Kelowna investment firm Christy Clark said it took a lot of work and imagination for the city, the province and Accelerate Okanagan to put together the funding agreement.

“No one in government has done something like this before,” Clark said. “It’s the product of a lot of work, a lot of hoping, a lot of dreaming and a lot of elbow grease.”

The office building will act as an incubator to help entrepreneurs get their tech companies up and running.

When asked why the government is helping to fund a project more suited to private sector investment, the Premier defended the investment saying while she believes the government should not subsidize business, government policy and decisions can fundamentally alter the direction of the economy.

Clark believes the Centre for Innovation will fundamentally alter the direction of the valley’s economy toward high tech.

“Here we are in the cradle of free enterprise with more free enterprise about to be unleashed,” she said.

Kelowna mayor Walter Grey said strategic government partnerships with the technology industry are necessary so local companies can expand their wings across the market place around the world.

“It certainly demonstrates that Kelowna is open for business,” he adds.

The Okanagan Centre for Innovation will be kitty-corner to the soon to be built new headquarters for the Interior Health Authority. Grey believes it will be the busiest corner between Vancouver and Calgary over the next couple of years.

“The investment supports another goal of council, to balance the city’s demographics,” he said. “We need more jobs for young people. We need more opportunities for entrepreneurs who will develop careers locally.”

The rest of the funding for the $35 million project is coming from the Kelowna Sustainable Innovation Group. It will own and operate the building.

Construction should begin late this summer with the building finished by early 2016.

Kelowna Mayor Walter Grey, left, and B.C. Premier Christy Clark at the announcement of the construction of the Okanagan Centre for Innovation in downtown Kelowna on Monday, July 28, 2014.
Kelowna Mayor Walter Grey, left, and B.C. Premier Christy Clark at the announcement of the construction of the Okanagan Centre for Innovation in downtown Kelowna on Monday, July 28, 2014.

B.C. Minister of Technology Andrew Wilkinson, left to right, Kelowna Mayor Walter Grey and B.C. Premier Christy Clark with an artist's rendering of the Okanagan Centre for Innovation, Monday, July 28, 2014.
B.C. Minister of Technology Andrew Wilkinson, left to right, Kelowna Mayor Walter Grey and B.C. Premier Christy Clark with an artist's rendering of the Okanagan Centre for Innovation, Monday, July 28, 2014.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Howard Alexander at halexander@infotelnews.ca or call 250-491-0331. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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