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Students say French entrepreneurs key to local economy

Penticton should be targeting young French-speaking entrepreneurs to boost the local economy, according to a group of university students.

The four students from UBC Okanagan spent the last three months preparing a consultant’s report for Penticton as their capstone project, and presented council with a report this week on their suggested strategy to draw younger families to the city.

“We saw French as a unique position that Penticton had and something we could sort of leverage going forward to attract more people,” said Blake Pridham, referring to the French immersion programs available through the school district and the city’s French language elementary school, École Entre Lacs.

Those advantages, the team said, could form the basis for attracting new, younger families to the city, especially from Quebec, where another factor comes into play: entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship in Quebec is limited, said Pridham.

Western Canada, however, leads the country, with 17 per cent of the entrepreneurial activity in Canada.  And Penticton, he continued, is home to a major entrepreneurial movement.

“The French programs in Penticton and the entrepreneurial growth can be leveraged and used as a marketing tactic for French-speaking families to relocate,” said Pridham.

Kriz Mazey told council they should also focus on strengthening student exchange programs with Quebec to give younger people a taste of the city.

“We would really like those younger people to come and experience Penticton and see what they have to offer,” said Mazey.

Housing was also a key factor, according to Sharan Dhand, who told council their study suggested Penticton should focus on subsidized housing for entrepreneurs and affordable housing alternatives like carriage houses.

Mayor Garry Litke pointed out that the city already allows homeowners to create carriage houses, but admitted the city could do a better job letting people know that was a possibility.

The report was well-received by council, including Coun. John Vassilaki who added he had been trying to get his granddaughter entered into pre-school at Entre Lacs.

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