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Aug 19, 2016

Kelowna Businesses Stay Busy in the Summer

 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.”