City trying to lure jail workers to Penticton

Communities stepping up efforts to attract new residents who will work on, or in, the new correctional centre near Oliver

Efforts have begun to attract people hired to work at the Okanagan Correctional Centre to choose Penticton as their home.

“I have been trying to make contact with the P3 proponents because I think they are going to need to access lots of our local construction firms and local talent and I am curious to know if they have started to look at that and what the process is for doing that,” said Pennington.

“I have started some of the legwork to find out what they are intending to do.”

The estimated $200-million state-of-the art jail that will be built north of Oliver on the southern end of Senkulmen Business Park on Osoyoos Indian Band land is expected to create up to 500 direct and 500 indirect construction jobs. As well, it will create approximately 240 full-time jobs, a rash of part-time work and significant economic spinoff.

“Even in the worst case scenario where no one is hired locally, it will have a huge impact on the hospitality sector,” said Pennington.

While still in the initial stages of investigation into these questions for the large construction consortiums that have been short-listed for the project, the city is also examining what long-term jobs are available.

Already they have information for those eyeing Penticton as their home that was created during a campaign for oil and gas workers. This information is found on the city website, under Move To Penticton, and contains details about daily life in the community.

Pennington said Stats Canada information shows a couple with children spends on average $80,000 a year, in comparison to a senior living on their own who spends $20,000 a year.

“If you think about the kind of spending between school supplies, clothes and all of those things for a family to live life, it is quite different than a senior. If we can attract some of those families to the region, specifically Penticton, it can make a huge difference to our economy,” said Pennington.

The economic development officer said families relocating to work at the correction centre will also have to make a lifestyle choice, whether they want to live in a community where everything is within 10 minutes, or commute to amenities and maybe have different housing options and live in a smaller centre.

“None of these are bad choices to make, I think you pitch what you have. Penticton is a fantastic place to live and there is a range of shopping from little fruit markets to grocery chains, entertainment, dry cleaning or orthodontists or whatever you need all within a heartbeat. Some people may enjoy aspects of a smaller community,” said Pennington. “I think at the end of the day more people in the general area is better for everybody.”

Pennington said she is working to get a good picture of how the proponents will be recruiting and hiring by the end of September, which in turn will help the city to promote itself to these potential workers.

She added they are looking at how to expedite getting the information to local small to medium-sized businesses so they can also get involved.

“I don’t know if these companies are sitting and ready to go or if they need some ramp up time and recruitment time, those are the things we need to find out. Either way we are ready now and we will be able to customize it once we find out this information and make it better,” she said.

Howevere, the city will have competition.

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes said he has fielded queries from people asking how they can get involved with the employment opportunities that will become available through the building of the correctional centre and when it opens. He added there hasn’t been much activity just yet.

“I think we are talking shovel in the ground for the correctional centre early next year, nothing official yet of course because the whole project has to go to the treasury at the end of this year for the final approval of dollars.”

While Oliver and Osoyoos do not have an economic development officer behind them like Okanagan Falls and Penticton, Hovanes said they have been working on a number of things in-house.

“We have done a lot of things to make our community attractive. We have a tax exemption bylaw, reduced parking restrictions in the downtown area and there are other things that make our community attractive as well,” said Hovanes.

“We have a full general hospital and a brand new $55-million high school that opened up this year.”

On Oct. 9 Corrections BC will be hosting a public information session at the Oliver community centre at 6 p.m. and in Osoyoos on Oct. 10. B.C. Corrections spokesperson Marnie Mayhew said this is to update the status of the project, discuss employment opportunities and respond to any questions residents have.

Mayhew said proponents have been short-listed and invited to submit comprehensive proposals to design, build, partially finance and maintain the new correctional centre. She said a proponent will be selected in early 2014.


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