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  Photo courtesy: www.tourismkelowna.com Photographer Brian Sprout - Picture BC                                                                          Photo courtesy: www.tourismkelowna.com Photographer Brian Sprout - Picture BC

Welcome to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce

The Kelowna Chamber is an Accredited Chamber of Commerce with Distinction. This means that we are a chamber that is run in a strategic and professional way and that our operations reflect national standards of business excellence. We work to ensure the Okanagan region will become the most economically prosperous region - and the most desirable place to live and work - in Canada. As the area's leading membership driven business organization, we are committed to providing value to our members.  
 

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  • Kelowna Businesses Stay Busy in the Summer
    Aug 19, 2016
     It’s been a busier summer so far than we anticipated – it must be human nature to believe that because school is out and the sun is shining – weakly at times, through the summer rains – that business takes a breather.

    On behalf of all our business members, and we have 1300+ of them: we are delighted that the economy is buzzing. Certainly Kelowna streets and highways and beaches reflect good visitor numbers, and locals are getting out and about, too, which means good retail and good news for the service industry.

    Speaking of the service industry, we hosted the Chief Economist of Central 1 Credit Union – Helmut Pastrick – at our last Chamber luncheon before taking a summertime break.  Central 1 is the financial trade association for the BC credit union system.

    Helmut gave us a very lively and informative commentary on the national and local economic recovery prospects. A few days after he spoke to 120 of our members and non-members here in Kelowna, he presented at the annual Bay Area Economic Summit, in Burlington, Ontario.  He has the national view.

    Helmut highlighted Kelowna numbers for our crowd, which was really useful, as so often much of our information is skewed to Vancouver and Toronto. I’ll just touch on a few highlights here, thank you in advance to Helmut:

    Employment Trends – recent gains higher in Kelowna than Vancouver or all of BC. Overall, employment remains an issue, as the numbers could be more robust.
    Population growth: Kelowna remains the leading CMA (Census Metropolitan Area) in population growth in Canada for three years in a row.
    The three top CMA industries in Kelowna over the past year showed up as Construction; Accommodation and Food; and Information, Culture, and Recreation. That aligns perfectly with our key business areas.
    Business building and support is a growing business concentration in the Kelowna CMA.
    And Helmut said that everyone always wants to hear about housing: where are we, where is it going, will it continue to expand? Certainly there is a cyclical upturn in residential sales in the Kelowna CMA – numbers are up in 2015, and median sales price is up. And the market continues to rise, according to the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board: MLS residential sales up, and the average sales price, up. This is accompanied by a shrinking inventory of product for sale; just ask any Kelowna-based Realtor, and you’ll hear the same story. Lots of buyers; not a lot of product.

    A final note from Helmut’s presentation, and that is on the economic and housing forecast for the Kelowna area:  Helmut showed us a forecast through 2018:

    Employment up 1.5% to 2%
    Unemployment dropping from today’s 7.0% to 5.5%
    Population, up by 4%
    Housing sales up by 5%, a healthier percentage than this year’s 15.8%
    Housing starts up by 20%
    We were all delighted that Helmut could take the time to bring us the Kelowna Economic snapshot at our luncheon.

    On other topics: We were pleased to be invited to present local issues at the Federal Liberal Party of Canada’s Pacific Caucus western meeting at the end of July – a solid opportunity to make our voices and our issues known to the federal governing party; issues of importance to Kelowna, and the Okanagan.

    Topics we covered included Kelowna Airport Funding; Invasive Mussels; Credit Card Merchant Fees; Convention Centre; Temporary Foreign Worker Policy; and the Organized Crime Tax Force.  We also revisited the Inter-provincial Sales of 100% Canadian Wine; and Addressing the Doctor Shortage.  (It was a very full agenda!)

    Later this month, the Kelowna Chamber is hosting delegates from Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.  In April, our Chamber visited Kasugai, along with six other cities across central and southern Japan as part of a partnership/tourism/business trip co-sponsored by the Kelowna-Kasugai Sister City Association.

    This reciprocal trip only lasts three days, but the 17 delegates are all “home-staying” with local families, to get a true flavor of life here in the Okanagan. (Our 40 delegates all home-stayed for three days in Kasugai in April.)

    Many of the delegates are associated with Chubu University, and our Chamber Day will feature a tour of one of our two post-secondary institutions here, the University of British Columbia Okanagan.  Dr Phil Barker, Associate Vice President Research at UBC Okanagan will host the afternoon tour.

    Morning will see some golf at The Harvest Golf Club, a walking tour of Kasugai Gardens and the downtown cultural district and waterfront.  We’ll have business presentations over a lunch at the Chamber. After our afternoon tour of UBC, we’ll tour the BC Fruit Packinghouse, and have a taste of their new Broken Ladder cider (John Shreiner says “they hit it out of the park with taste and aroma”).  Finally, an outdoor BBQ in the sunshine back at The Harvest Golf Club.

    There is a lot more going on, but that’s probably enough about us, for now.  We remain busy with event planning for fall, continuing membership growth, and our always great back-and-forth conversations with our many members.  We’re also encouraging staff to take a bit of time off while things are “quieter.” 
     
    -KCC 
  • Global Backlash: Is it Time to Rethink Our Approach to Trade?
    Jul 28, 2016

    The overarching theme at last week’s Republican convention was one of anger—fury at government and “a rigged system” and rage at an economy that is supposedly “not working.” But, Donald Trump’s biggest applause came when he slammed trade and immigration (“Build the wall! Build the wall!”).

    And yet this is not just an American phenomenon. These themes would have been familiar to the British who voted to exit the European Union or in France, Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden where extreme-right parties are leading in the polls. So why are voters so angry? Have trade and globalization gone too far?

    Or maybe not far enough! The graph below shows how incomes have grown over 20 years for people at different levels of the global income distribution. We can see that the bottom 10% saw incomes rise almost 40%, so the world’s poorest are better off. The really big winners came from Asia where China’s urban median income grew by almost 300% while in Indonesia and Thailand, it roughly doubled. The top 1%, of course, did well.

    Those who gained the least were in the 80th and 90th percentiles—people in rich countries who are in the lower halves of national income distributions. In the mighty German economy, those folks gained just 7% in real terms over 20 years while the U.S. was essentially flat, and Japan saw incomes decline.

    Should we blame trade? Research shows that some workers in the rich world struggled with the rise of China’s exports. Trade creates lots of jobs, but when losses are concentrated in certain sectors or regions, it’s difficult for workers to find other employment.

    However, a recent paper by the IMF shows that almost all of the world’s income inequality and working class wage stagnation is driven by technology. This is because the automation of routine work by robotics and computing has increased the demand and price premium on higher skills while reducing opportunities in relatively lower skill sectors. From robot greeters and automated checkouts to self-driving vehicles, this transformation is accelerating.

    No one can build a wall that will stop technology from coming, so it’s easier for populist leaders to blame trade and immigration.This is not surprising. In 1824, Thomas MacAulay said, “Free trade, one of the greatest blessings which a government can confer on a people, is in almost every country unpopular.” We’ve been arguing about immigration for just as long even though all the evidence shows that immigration actually raises incomes of native workers.

    Protectionism is always bad news for Canada. We have to press ahead with CETA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership while doing a better job explaining the benefits from trade. Building walls is a dead end.

     

    -Hendrik Brakel, CCC

    Senior Director, Economic, Financial & Tax Policy 613.238.4000 (284) | hbrakel@chamber.ca

  • Fail Britannia! What the U.K. Exit Vote Means for Business
    Jun 29, 2016

    The polls were wrong; the government was wrong and even the bookies were wrong, and now the U.K. has voted to leave the European Union. Back in 2013, Prime Minister Cameron promised a referendum on EU membership to shore up support in the midst of a tough election campaign. It has now exploded in his face as a national calamity. Last Friday, the pound fell to its lowest level in 30 years, and global markets lost $2.1 trillion.

    The hardest question in all of this is “Why?” In many ways, it’s like asking why 16 million Americans voted for Donald Trump. Is it partly a protest vote, a symptom of frustration with politicians, globalization and declining family incomes? British motivations are similar: the working class is angry about wages; the EU has always provided a convenient punching bag for politicians, and there is a streak of xenophobia as the migrant crisis got mixed into the debate.

    The more important question is “What comes next?” Business hates uncertainty—it becomes paralyzing as investment and hiring decisions are put off indefinitely. For now, the U.K. will remain part of the EU. The Lisbon Treaty allows for a two-year period of negotiations once official departure notice has been given to the EU. But the PM has announced his resignation and has said that a new leader will have to provide notice and take charge of negotiating the terms of departure. This will be excruciating because the British government must then ask for a divorce with bedroom privileges—to exit the EU while maintaining access to trade in the common market, investment, banks and the financial sector, some labour mobility, public procurement, input into regulations, etc.

    Why would the European Union go along with that? There is great fatigue with British whining; there is anger at being rejected, and it is very much in Europe’s interest to make the U.K. suffer, lest it create an example that could be emulated by other frustrated member-states. For if the Brexit (British exit) works out well, then why not a Frexit, a Departugal, an Italeave, a Beljump or a Luxembuggeroff? (Thank you Twitter.) Quite seriously, nationalist, anti-EU parties are jubilantly crowing with delight all across the continent. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Front National, called it a “Victoire de la liberté” and called for an identical referendum in France “ le plus vite possible.” Just 38% of French people view the EU favourably.

    This comes at a bad time as Europe had emerged from crisis and was returning to healthy growth. Unemployment was falling, confidence was returning and consumers were spending. With 500 million people and GDP of $18.5 trillion, the EU is the world’s largest economy, so a return to instability and fear will have a depressing effect on the global economy.

    For Canada, slower global growth means weaker commodity prices and it means that our largest trading partner in Europe will struggle for years with weak investment and political uncertainty. Of Canada’s $37.7 billion of exports to the EU in 2015, $15.9 billion was destined for the U.K.

    The best thing the Government of Canada can do is to press ahead full speed with signing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) to show our commitment to the European Union. The U.K. may one day cease to be part of the EU, so we should also begin negotiating a new trade agreement with our old friends.

    -Hendrik Brakel, KCC

    Senior Director, Economic, Financial & Tax Policy 613.238.4000 (284) | hbrakel@chamber.ca 

  • No Slowdown for Summer
    Jun 14, 2016
    This June, at the Kelowna Chamber, it feels like we aren’t even pausing to catch our breath, before forging ahead with more new members, more new programs, more celebrating the conclusion of another successful year’s programming in a range of areas.

    We try to work around the end of the school terms, as we know how busy parents and families get: on top of running their businesses or reporting for work, they are attending school sports days, attending graduations, going to arts and culture celebrations at their children’s schools, and volunteering in the schools just before the educational system pauses for its six- to eight-week summer break.

    May saw us host or co-host fifteen events for Chamber membership. In June, we are hosting nine events, an all-time June high for us.  Our luncheon features Helmut Pastrick, Chief Economist for Central Credit Union 1, the central financial facility and trade association for the B.C. and Ontario credit union systems.

    We co-hosted, with the City of Kelowna, a fascinating panel discussion on how businesses can achieve marketing objectives through support of the arts – making arts a key part of their business plan. Participants include the Okanagan Symphony, artsVest, and a local member and business supporter of the arts, Source Furniture. 

    We’re also wrapping up another successful year of our BDO Top Forty Under Forty program; hosted a new member reception at Cactus Club - Banks road; joining with the Uptown Rutland Business Association for an after-hours networking event; hosting a Women’s Leadership Network Inspire Series keynote speaker event; and more.

    Oh, by the way, our May 25th golf tournament – our 31st annual – sold out three weeks in advance of the date this year, both golf foursomes, and sponsorships. A new record, welcome, in this our 110th year. Business really appears quite bullish in Kelowna right now.

    Speaking of being 110 – we will celebrate that significant milestone in on July 6th, with an open party for all our members, our staff, board and volunteers, and all of our fall Business Excellence Award nominees.  We’re planning an outdoor party at one of Kelowna’s best-loved, and best-sited wineries, Vibrant Vine at Okanagan Villa Estate. Fingers crossed for a sunny afternoon.

    It’s been a significant year for us in so many ways, as we prepare to undertake particular tasks over the summer.  With fewer events on the horizon to manage, we can happily turn our attention to some special one-time-only projects ranging from web refresh to looking at our outbound communications, from member needs to new Chamber programs.

    There have been times this winter when we’ve felt more like a 24/7 events marketing company than a Chamber. It’s important for all of us to maintain the balance among events (connection), serving our members, advocacy, and all the great work that we are privileged to do year round.

    Membership continues to grow as we head into our traditionally quieter summer. Once we’ve celebrated our 110th, staff will start to enjoy their annual vacations with family and friends, and it will be all hands on deck as we pitch in and cover for each other.

    All in all, just another (busy) time at the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce – in the most beautiful city in Canada. New statistic just in: Kelowna has more restaurants per capita than any city in the country.  Hmmm. we know what we’ll be doing for part of our summer staycation!
     
    -KCC