Do entrepreneurs hold the key to Penticton's success?

City economic development officer Colleen Pennington delivered the keynote speech this week to the annual general meeting of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce. - Joe Fries/Western News
City economic development officer Colleen Pennington delivered the keynote speech this week to the annual general meeting of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

Entrepreneurs hold the key to Penticton’s long-term prosperity, the city’s economic development officer told the chamber of commerce this week.

Colleen Pennington unveiled a list of eight major projects she plans to undertake this year to play to the city’s strengths as a smaller centre.

“If you go to the U.S. midwest right now, they’re willing to give you land, buildings, $10,000 per employee and numerous other incentives if you want to move your manufacturing company,” she said.

“That’s a race to the bottom. It’s not focused on what we’re good at.”

What the city is good at, Pennington continued, is providing community amenities that attract business people and their families.

She intends to work harder at getting out the word through Project Entrepreneur, which will focus on making the area more welcoming for them with proposed initiatives like social networking opportunities, alerting them to business opportunities available here, and helping to find their spouses work.

Spouses, particularly females living in northern Alberta whose partners work in the oil patch, are also a part of the second project aimed at building the local residential sector.

Pennington said a new Come Home To Penticton campaign on Facebook launched Thursday and features "edgy" advertisements with tag lines like: "His job's up north, but you don't have to live there," and, "Welcome to a true four-season playground, not just cold and colder."

Another audience Pennington intends to target is the cycling community, which she hopes to attract with a major project dubbed the South Okanagan biking precinct.

She said the high-end cycling tourists she’s after typically have $80,000 annual incomes and like to spend.

“They’re not your stay-in-a-campground, eat-$2-meals type of people. This is a high-income, affluent group,” Pennington said.

“It has huge economic potential and we are well-positioned,”

The biking precinct will be a joint effort of local governments, community groups and the cycling community to do a little bit of work on local trails and a lot of promotional activities, which she hopes will eventually encourage the creation of businesses to service the bikers.

Other projects Pennington has in mind include leveraging opportunities associated with the new jail in Oliver, supporting the manufacturing sector and assisting existing businesses with things like a streamlined licensing process.

Andre Martin, president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, likes the sound of the plan, but thinks it may be too ambitious for one person.

“It is a big agenda and I’m not sure it can all be accomplished in a quick fashion. That would be our concern: Do we have enough resources pushing that program down the road?” he said.

Martin does agree, however, with the focus on small business.

“The days of having large firms pick up and move their companies, those days are pretty much gone,” he said.

“We have to focus on the small business, for sure, and the entrepreneurs.”


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