Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce’s executive director John Devitt has vacated the position.
Devitt took on the role in the spring of 2013, and said it’s now time for him to explore new opportunities.
“There’s never a good time to resign because the chamber’s always in the middle of some project, so there are things I wish I could have seen through to completion, but it was the right time for me,” he said.
Devitt was at the helm during the deliberations and execution of Boonstock 2014, which was not a commercial success. He said he has no regrets as the concept was sound on paper, although he mentioned some ways in which the chamber could improve.
“A good learning experience from this is that as a community we need to do more to be supportive of new initiatives, including making sure that new entrepreneurs get the right support, education and help through the regulation process,” he said. “A lot more could have been done to help that event but hopefully something new will be able to replace it in a year or two.”
Devitt said Penticton is well-positioned to attract workers who earn their living in remote areas, such as the oil fields, but that method of recruiting residents spawns a new challenge – spousal employment.
“We want to make sure that we’re growing the pie, and not just taking more slices out of a smaller share that the tourism industry is struggling to share.”
Because Penticton’s economy is largely based upon tourism, Devitt said many local jobs don’t offer year-round stability, and he thinks growth in other local industries would be the best remedy.
While the chamber takes a neutral position in which politicians to support, the organization formed a list of questions around the business community’s top-of-mind concerns during the last municipal election and hosted an all-candidates forum.
“We circulated those to all the candidates in advance, and I think a lot of the folks that are in office now certainly took that to heart and had a look at those suggested ideas as a way to move things forward,” he said. “I think we had a pretty good impact on the election.”
He recalled an interesting debate between board members, when it was decided whether they should support the rezoning at 325 Power St. (to allow a hotel to be built over an existing baseball field), as members appreciated both the importance of recreational space and the strong business case for a new hotel.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish here as a team,” he said. “We’ve had a great board of directors over the last couple of years. We’ve had a lot of changes but it’s been really good.”