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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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  • 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!
  • Arts & Business: Synergy for Success
    Jun 06, 2016

    The City and Kelowna Chamber of Commerce will host a breakfast panel discussion to feed creativity and the bottom line.

    Members of the arts and business communities are invited to a panel discussion on Monday, June 13, that will highlight how synergies between arts and business can lead to increased profits, recognition and success.

    “How Business Can Utilize the Arts to Better Market their Company” is a $10 breakfast event taking place from 9 – 11 a.m. at the Coast Capri Hotel, co-sponsored by the City of Kelowna and Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

    “Creativity, passion and audience are characteristics shared by arts and business,” says Sandra Kochan, Cultural Services Manager. “Whether it’s corporate team building through making music together, or providing a unique behind-the-scenes art experience to valued clients, business and the arts have synergies that can build great results for everyone.”

    “Businesses can spark successful, long-term partnerships that capture the imagination of their customers, and empower their employees and staff to broaden their business horizons to include supporting the arts,” says Caroline Miller, Business Development, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce. “Running a museum or an orchestra or a gallery is a business – and partnering always brings more attention to a business, and more customers and visitors to both parties in the relationship.”

    The panel includes representation from the local arts and business communities, and will be moderated by Chris Olsen, known for CTV’s ‘Olsen on Your Side’. The panel will address how the arts can help grow a business, extend or establish a brand, engage customers in new and innovative ways, and much more.

    Tickets to this event are available until June 8. For more information and to register, visit www.kelownachamber.org/events.