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Penticton's economic development efforts geared to keep the good times rolling

FILE PHOTO - The expansion at Penticton Regional Hospital is pictured in this file photo from Sept. 19, 2017. City of Penticton development services director Anthony Haddad says Penticton's present economically robust state is expected to continue for another two years, as work on the hospital expansion and many other construction projects continue.
October 30, 2017 - 11:23 AM

PENTICTON - The South Okanagan economic juggernaut continues to roll along and Penticton is finding ways to make sure the business community has the employees needed.

September figures from the City of Penticton and the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen paint a busy picture for the planning departments as construction permits, business license applications and construction values continue to build on last year’s record setting pace.

In the city, building permit applications from January to September totalled 847, up 22 per cent over the same period last year. The city’s construction values total over $163 million to the end of September, which is five per cent higher than last year.

In the regional district, the picture is similar with 453 building permits issued to the end of September compared to 448 issued in the same period in 2016. The regional district has seen the value of it’s building permits rise to over $75 million compared to more than $47 million for the same period in 2016.

The City of Penticton is making an effort to ensure the economic good times continue to roll along as development services manager Anthony Haddad and economic development specialist Jennifer Vincent work to develop a five year plan to attract and keep business in the city.

Haddad says the findings of a labour market study conducted in the South Okanagan last year are now being implemented.

In May, the city launched a free-to-post, centralized job board called StartHere Okanagan after a request from employers.

Vincent says since the job board was initiated in May, they have found several locations across the country that appear to be “hot spots” for people interested in moving to Penticton based on internet traffic to the site. Understanding where interest in the region lies helps the city target their recruitment and promotional efforts.

Calgarians are showing the most interest with stats showing people not just looking at the website but spending time on it and returning several times as they look for jobs, Vincent says.

“There’s three times more interest shown in Penticton by Calgary residents than anywhere else in the country,” Vincent says, adding other hot spots include Toronto, London, Ont., Edmonton, Victoria and the Lower Mainland.

She says the city is working to be innovative. Having a centralized job board allows the city is able to gather data that helps them better position themselves for what local employers need, at the same time it helps local employers build and grow. The job board currently details around 160 job vacancies in the South Okanagan.

“We’re not trying to attract the big employer anymore, the philosophy now is to build from within, and we are fortunate to have some really excellent employers in the region,” Vincent says.

Haddad says local business is facing an ongoing issue of job vacancies as business booms, noting some contractors are calling in subcontractors from Kelowna, something that hasn’t happened until recently.

“Businesses are finding the employees they need, but have to go further afield to get them,” he says.

“Nothing has slowed down this year. The number of building permits being requested isn’t indicative of a labour shortfall yet, because they are still coming in,” he says.

Haddad says the city expects to see "significant activity" for the next couple of years.


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