Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki and CAO Peter Weeber prepare for the afternoon of speakers at the first FutureBiz conference. Steve Kidd/Western News

Looking at the future of Penticton’s economy

There’s no doubt in Anthony Haddad’s voice as he talks about positive future prospects for Penticton and area.

Haddad, Penticton’s director of development services, was the opening speak at Penticton’s first FutureBiz conference, a gathering of the business community to look at what is happening in Penticton, part of the city’s focus on retaining existing businesses and helping them grow.

The goal of this conference and the city’s increased focus on interaction with the business community.

We have the same goal to create a great city, and we all have to work together to achieve that, Haddad told the audience.

“Those conversations are important,” said Haddad, noting the city’s investment in developing the downtown, growth, sustainability.

“We are see the lowest rates of commercial vacancies on our first floors in year,” said Jen Vincent, economic development specialist for the city.

Vincent began by talking about Penticton’s early economy, how it became known for “Hot summers, delicious fruit crops and beautiful beaches.”

That’s changed, she said, as tourism has developed into more than just lying on beaches: wineries, outdoor adventures and more.

For years she explained, cities saw growth as incentives to draw in heavy industry: “stack chasing.” The problem with that, she explained is that, in the long run, many of the companies that relocated were looking for their next incentive and move.

“It’s important to think about the flight risk of these companies,” said Vincent.

The model Penticton has turned to is building strength within communities, focusing on retention of existing commerce and building a resilient local economy.

“A strong community is an attractive community. Talent is attracted to strong communities,” said Vincent, who also pointed out how much the local economy is interacting internationally.

Vincent said there are more than 300 businesses locally that are connected to the global marketplace, not only buying materials but selling internationally as well.

The Penticton Indian Band is taking a long view, according to Jonathan Blayne of the PIB Development Corporation.

In that community, the focus has changed from simply leasing land to developing an economy that takes into account sustainability and future generations.

“What is going to be the impact on the environment I am leaving to those generations,” said Baynes. “How do we create an economy that brings in revenue … how do we do that in a way that protects the land?”

Part of the problem with leasing land, he explained is that it really only benefits the current generation.

Baynes said that instead, the PIB is looking for partners who are willing to work with the band on multi generations projects that will be sustainable.

“We get a lot of people asking us just for land. What we are interested in is proper partnerships,” said Baynes.

Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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