Site of Pennask Wind Power Project along Highway 97C, the Okanagan Connector. Image Credit: Contributed

Site of Pennask Wind Power Project along Highway 97C, the Okanagan Connector. Image Credit: Contributed

Economy stifled by distractions

Outlook still positive despite government and environment uncertainties.

What began as a year full of promise for economic prosperity in 2017 has evolved into one of uncertainty.

The Thompson-Okanagan region economy has felt the impact distractions of flooding in the spring and wildfires throughout the summer, a provincial election that resulted in an NDP minority government and potential changes on the taxation of Canadian private corporations and business structures by the Liberal federal government.

But despite those concerns, the Chartered Professional Accountants of B.C. still sees widespread hope for optimism moving forward.

Karen Christiansen, a Kelowna CPA, said she would describe the economy as “in a bit of a holding pattern” for the reasons cited above.

“That doesn’t mean investors aren’t forging ahead with their plans, but it’s just 2017 has had a lot of distractions going on,” she said.

“In conversations I have with clients and business community people, the Thompson Okanagan region still has many positives going for it as a great place to work and live despite the oddness of what else has been happening in 2017.”

According to the CPABC regional check-up report for 2016, the value of the region’s major capital investment projects reached the lowest levels in nine years, a total project value drop of eight per cent at $21.9 billion.

That decline was blamed on low commodity prices, a reflection again of Alberta’s impact on our regional economy, but entering 2017 was also buoyed by some uplifting significant projects.

Among them were the $60 million Highway 97 improvement and $45 million Pennask Wind Power Project around Kelowna; the $20 million Landmark Place commercial and residential complex in Kamloops; the $45 million Shinish Creek Wind Power Project near Summerland; and the $312 million hospital redevelopment, $83 million Channel Crossing retail centre and $25 million Cascades Casino in Penticton.

Added to that are recent stats from the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission which show improvements in most major economic indicators: population growth, 8.4 per cent growth; housing starts, 87 per cent; building permit values, 40 per cent; airport passengers, 13 per cent; and median home prices, 23 per cent.

And Lake Country is now considered the fast growing community in B.C. which is likely to spur more business development spinoff benefits across the Okanagan.

While the local business communities were solidly supportive of the Liberals in the last provincial election, Christiansen said everyone is now taking a wait and see attitude.

“Their policies are not a surprise as they campaigned on them. It’s logical to expect there will be more government spending but the hope is one way or another the revenue will be there to account for that,” she said.

She noted that weather emergency repairs and renovations have absorbed the shortage of skilled workers, driving up labour costs along with higher prices for construction materials, a phenomena that has played out specifically at times in the Central Okanagan over the last decade.

“We don’t really have any metrics on that but I know from anecdotally talking to people that construction costs are going up and availability of tradespeople is becoming harder to find,” she said.

Christiansen said the investment opportunity for the Thompson-Okanagan, for as good as it may have been during the last 10 to 15 years, is only scratching the surface.

She points to the Asian investment market which hasn’t really been tapped into yet within our region along with potential European investors looking elsewhere given the Brexit uncertainty going forward.

Just Posted

Discovery House executive director Jerome Abraham in front of the third building, Parkers Place, for the addiction recovery program. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Discovery House opens Parkers Place in Penticton to provide transitionary care

The addiction recovery program is now able to provide support for as long as necessary

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen offices in Penticton. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen showcases local government

The RDOS has put together a video as part of Local Government Awareness Week

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

Duckie Lucky Preschool is one of the few child care locations available in Keremeos. (Brennan Phillips – Keremeos Review)
Report: Keremeos to need 40 child care over the next decade

The RDOS has completed their study on child care needs in the region

The future of the Okanagan Lake watershed land use will be subject of a new study supported by a $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation. (Contributed)
Grant to help develop Okanagan Lake protection strategy

Study receives $300,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation.

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

A man and woman, both 33 and from Kelowna, were arrested on Postill Lake Forest Service Road in possession of two stolen vehicles Friday, May 14, 2021. (File photo)
Kelowna duo arrested with stolen vehicles after ‘brief’ bicycle getaway attempt

A man and a woman were arrested on a forest service road on numerous pending charges

The BC Conservation Officer Service (COS) handed out fines to two anglers on Shuswap Lake who were both casting more than one line, in violation of provincial regulations, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (COS photo)
Conservation officers snag Shuswap anglers for unlawful fishing

Two anglers were given $150 fines for casting two lines at once, against provincial regulations

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Lynda Saundry, born 1961, is charged with the murder of North Okanagan resident Barry Jones in July 2020. Saundry will appear in Vernon court May 17, 2021, to fix a date for a preliminary inquiry. (Facebook public photo)
North Okanagan murder suspect to be tried by judge and jury

Lynda Saundry is charged with the first-degree murder of Barry Jones in July 2020

Vernon Search and Rescue’s Legacy vessel is returning to Okanagan Lake for boating season, the society said Friday, May 14, 2021. (VSAR photo)
Vernon Search and Rescue vessel returns to Okanagan Lake

VSAR’s Legacy is back with a fresh coat of paint and some other upgrades

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Most Read