KELOWNA - Kelowna's strong economic growth and dismal social qualities put the city on the middle ground of a new study released today.
The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and the City of Kelowna hosted a press briefing today, Feb. 11, to present the first-ever economic scorecard for the city. The scorecard graded Kelowna on 24 social and economic factors and compared the city to 16 similar Canadian, American, and international towns. Based on the findings, Kelowna needs to be a lot more sociable.
Kelowna ranked sixth based on economic indicators while also scraping the bottom of the social indicators barrel at 14th place. On average, Kelowna came in 10th place out of 17 in the rankings, firmly positioned near the lower end of the middle.
"[We're] trying to look at ourselves honestly," said Robert Fine, Director of Business and Entrepreneurial Development with the City. "It's a reflective moment."
The study, which looked at data backwards from 2017, analyzed 12 economic and 12 social indicators for the city. The Okanagan School of Business and the UBC Okanagan conducted the bulk of the research. Researchers used 71 data points over 18 months during the study.
The study chose 16 cities for comparison due to their similarities with Kelowna and the availability of data. The report initially started with dozens of cities for comparison before eliminating several candidates due to key differences with Kelowna or a lack of information. The final count included five Canadian cities (Fredericton, Red Deer, Victoria, Waterloo, and Niagra Region), five American cities (Ann Arbor, Boulder, Charleston, Eugene, and Spokane), and five international cities (Cork, Glasgow, San Sebastian, Townsville, and Wellington).
While Kelowna performed well overall in economy, it stumbled in several key indicators. The city received "D" grades in real GDP per capita, disposable income, and high tech employment share. That last category may come as a surprise since Kelowna's tech industry is on the rise, but Fine said the study had to use consensus data, which mainly focuses on professional, scientific, and technical workers, potential excluding other rising technologies.
Kelowna averages in the middle for the majority of economic indicators, except for the self-employment rate of 15 per cent, the highest ranked among the cities. The report said this achievement reflects Kelowna's entrepreneurial spirit. Kelowna also got an "A" grade for building permits.
On the social side, Kelowna faired poorly. It received "C" grades for air quality, housing affordability, population of 25- to 34-year-olds, police-reported crime rate, and immigrant population. Fine said Kelowna should focus on improving house affordability and accessibility, immigration numbers, and youth retention to improve these grades.
It wasn't all doom and gloom on the social side, though. Kelowna got "B" grades for commuting time, cultural occupations, health car access, and the homicide rate. Its 0.34 per cent income inequality rate also netted the city an "A" grade.
The study will be conducted again in 2022. Fine said the goal is to share the study with as many people as possible and learn from it to see where Kelowna can improve.
The full scorecard will soon be available online at the City of Kelowna website.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Sean Mott or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.