The global economic downturn has had significant repercussions on the local business community according to the Penticton economic development services, but all the news isn’t grim.
“With that said, there is still some pretty positive things that are happening in Penticton,” said David Arsenault, Penticton economic development officer. “There are major projects such as the theatre, hockey school and probably two or three more that are just at the verge of making an announcement. Again, if one starts, others start to take notice.”
Arsenault said economic investment zones, introduced in 2009, helped jumpstart those projects and the program is now bearing some fruit. The strategy reduces or eliminates taxes and permit fees for new construction or renovations within five key growth areas of the city including downtown, industrial, waterfront, tourism, sport and culture and commercial/industrial. Several businesses that made contact with Arsenault and economic development services in 2009 saw their vision come to life in 2010, including Landmark Cinemas, Value Village and the Okanagan Hockey School.
“There has been a renewed interest especially in the downtown core. Just the properties adjacent to the theatre have been generating interest from developers wanting to know who owns what. They see that as an anchor drawing people downtown and hopefully it makes the downtown core a lot more vibrant,” said Arsenault. “I think the Downtown Penticton Association also does a great job in marketing downtown with festivals and events. We still have some way to go with revitalization and what I would love to see is something like Kitsilano where there is a draw to the community with more residential development. It would make a lot more sense for businesses who want to be downtown for them to thrive, survive and employ people.”
Attracting new business to any city is tough, said Arsenault, but having economic investment zones in place give Penticton a competitive advantage. While it can take over two years for general development to take place, from concept to reality, Arsenault said he is “confident” that the 2012 fiscal year will see a number of new commercial developments.
Even with an unstable worldwide economy, the manufacturing sector in Penticton has managed to show significant growth.
According to the Penticton economic development services, 29 per cent of Penticton’s employment is based in the manufacturing and innovation sector and it is the No.1 revenue-generating industry in the city with over $367 million. That total is the largest out of construction, professional, scientific, technical services, agricultural, forestry, mining and oil industries for the city.
Arsenault said one of the keys they hope to work on in 2012 is getting the message out that Penticton is not only a great place to live, but also do business by tapping into post-secondary institutions such as Okanagan College, NAIT, SAIT, BCIT and high school trade programs.
“Trades bring young people to our community and that is what we need to drive business and get a better return on investment. The other thought behind that is, if our business community is thriving and successful, other businesses take note from abroad,” said Arsenault, adding that there are several companies in Penticton’s industrial park that are expanding or on the verge of expanding and looking to hire tradespeople such as Slimline Manufacturing Ltd., Structurlam and McCoy Trailers.
While battling one of the worst recessions, most Penticton businesses have made major adjustments in their operations. This has meant retooling, downsizing, seeking new markets for goods and services and reinventing business goals.
In August, Slimline, the Penticton Foundry and Penticton Fabricating banded together as the Sustainability for the Okanagan Consortium to collaborate and share best practices.
“We have some really bright minds here that are really entrepreneurial and they are thinking way outside the box. We have products being shipped to Indonesia, China, Australia, U.K., United States and working on some local companies getting into the Brazil market,” said Arsenault.