When construction began on the Centre of Excellence at Okanagan College in 2009, it was touted as an economic generator not only for the immediate construction jobs, but as an ongoing boost to the South Okanagan economy.
Those early claims seem to be coming true with the announcement last week that a major organization has selected Penticton as the site for its 2013 conference.
James Knight, the president of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, said they plan to bring the group’s annual four-day, 700-delegate event to the South Okanagan in May 2013.
One of the factors that influenced the decision was the Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation at the Penticton campus, which is receiving international acclaim as one of the world’s most sustainable building designs. Right from the design phase, the concept was to make the centre completely energy-neutral, the largest structure to attempt to meet the rigorous environmental standards of the Living Building Challenge.
Donna Lomas, regional dean for the South Okanagan, describes the Centre of Excellence as a showpiece for Okanagan College, and even during construction, they were receiving inquiries from around the world about the building. It will open up many possibilities for the Penticton campus, she said, and the region is going to benefit from it for a long time.
Early estimates suggested the centre could have an economic impact of up to $40 million for the South Okanagan. And the impact of the ACCC conference alone, Lomas said, will be significant.
“We expect this conference will inject well over a million dollars into the regional economy, drawing on the spending experience of other visitors to the community,” she said. “It comes at a good time, before the summer tourist season is in full swing.”
“Hundreds of college leaders, faculty, students and international delegates will experience one of the world’s greenest buildings,” said Knight. “The conference will provide opportunities to network and dialogue on the key role colleges and institutes play in contributing to community economic development.”
Along with the centre, Penticton’s reputation as a tourist destination and Okanagan College’s growing reputation as a leader in the college sector also factored into the organization’s decision, according to college president Jim Hamilton.
“This conference will have significant impact for the region and Penticton,” said Mayor Dan Ashton, who also chairs the regional district board. “The municipality and the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen saw the potential for the Centre of Excellence as an economic generator in the short and long term and our support for the project is obviously reaping rewards.”