Penticton is seeing an increase in economic activity, according to a report delivered to Penticton city council this week.
“Something pretty exciting is happening in the community. Not only are we seeing an increase in commercial businesses, but two extremely promising signs include the increase to home-based and non-resident business licencing,” said Anthony Haddad, director of operations.
Drawing new people to the region in hopes of creating economic growth has been a major focus of city hall since 2015, along with dealing with the challenges businesses are facing attracting and retaining skilled labour.
Some of those challenges, said Jennifer Vincent, the city’s economic development officer, are being addressed by the city getting into the recruitment business with an online job board, or “relocation board portal.”
Start Here Okanagan is being used not only to bring together employers and job seekers but to market Penticton and the South Okanagan as a desirable destination for those job-seekers.
“It can counter the common water cooler conversation that there are no jobs in Penticton. It is simply not the case and now we can see it,” Vincent told Penticton city council in a presentation this week, noting the portal also offers tools for employers to help them grow and hire faster.
“All of this is to reinforce the choice to live and work and do business here,” said Vincent. “We want to underpin the theme that we have a big opportunity in a small city that is going to lead to people choosing Penticton.”
Some advertising goes along with the plan. Vincent said their hot target markets are in southern Ontario, Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and the Lower Mainland.
“This is where we are placing our ads, in front of them online,” said Vincent.
Locally, promotion is also being done through area partners: Summerland, South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services, YMCA, Community Futures and the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce.
Besides promoting the initiative through their own social media, the partners are required to submit eight articles per year to a blog hosted on the Start Here site. The job portal parallels another city initiative, Penticton Works, a Facebook page, a blog and online advertising all geared to attracting virtual workers to the Okanagan.
Hugh McClelland, contracted to oversee the program, said the number of virtual workers increasingly includes online home-based businesses.
“Up to 30 per cent of workers in North America will fall into this virtual worker category by 2025. The average virtual worker across North America earns an average of $65,000 per year, so these are reasonably good jobs,” said McClelland, adding that the area has the elements to attract virtual workers: internet and tech services, access to shipping routes and the small city lifestyle with access to four-season outdoor recreation.
“An awful lot of them want to get outdoors when they want to recreate. Penticton has all of the pieces to make us attractive to these kind of workers,” said McClelland. “We are not the only community that has cottoned on to the idea that attracting virtual workers is a good idea. We have lots of competition in B.C. and across Canada.”