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Ignite comes to Kelowna
Okanagan Edge Staff - Mar 22 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

Kelowna Community Resources and the Central Okanagan Local Immigration Partnership are inviting local employers to “rethink their hiring processes.”

At the Ignite Okanagan summit March 23, the organizations will be offering information and opportunities for both employers and immigrants they say will help make hiring “more equitable for everyone.”

Employers will be given an opportunity to tap into a skilled workforce, learn more about the benefits of an ethnically diverse workforce, engage with emerging markets, and meet the Central Okanagan’s growing economic needs.

Immigrants can see and hear more about what employers are looking for in new employees.

The summit will feature keynote speakers, including Mayor Colin Basran, and service providers that “bridge knowledge and cultivate strategies to address the Central Okanagan’s changing economic and employment needs.”

There will also be an opportunity to sign up for an Intercultural Awareness session that seeks to build understanding and respect for cultural differences.

“Immigrants, especially those with professional backgrounds, including skilled trades and office workers, have difficulty finding work and yet they have so much to offer and can be key to addressing our growing skilled labour shortage,” says Rawle James, the coordinator for COLIP.

Ignite organizers point out that, as the Central Okanagan has become the fastest-growing region in British Columbia, employers must adapt to the changing demographics and community needs.

Newcomer populations are becoming integral in communities as a labour market and consumer base, they say.

Between 2011 and 2016, the Central Okanagan welcomed 175,555 newcomers, with six out of ten of them entering through the economic class, where immigrants are selected on the basis of their ability to become economically established.

The event will take place March 23, from 12-3 p.m. at the Kelowna Library. More information is available online.

Findlater, James talk tax
Wayne Moore - Mar 22 - Biz Releases

Image: Wayne Moore
Doug Findlater

The City of West Kelowna got the face-to-face meeting it wanted with provincial Finance Minister Carole James, Wednesday.

Mayor Doug Findlater and CAO Jim Zaffino met the minister and her staff to discuss implications of the proposed speculation tax in the municipality.

The meeting lasted half an hour and allowed the city to elaborate its concerns about the tax the it says will target vacant or seasonally vacant homes.

A booklet outlining expected negative impacts if the tax is enacted, was handed over to ministry staff.

“We knew we weren’t going to receive a definitive answer during this meeting to our request to be excluded from this tax, and they said they are receiving a lot of input from other mayors that they will take into consideration,” says Findlater.

“They will announce what their plan is sometime in the spring, with the legislation expected in the fall.”

Findlater said the city made a case it would be uniquely hurt in the pocketbook by the tax.

“We are a sizeable, 10-year-old city that inherited a huge infrastructure deficit with almost no reserves. This tax would set our infrastructure program back significantly with the loss of taxes through growth and development cost charges.”

Attempts to sit down with both Premier John Horgan and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver have been unsuccessful to date.

New DVA board
Okanagan Edge Staff - Mar 22 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

The Downtown Vernon Association held its Annual General Meeting on March 20, 2018, and used the opportunity to elect a new board of directors.

New to the board are David Scarlatescu (The Sprouted Fig), Shanna Rowney (Evolve Beyond Education Systems), Tara Berger (Nature’s Fare), Umang Patel (RBC), Tegan Carruthers (BDO), and Alysia Lor-Knill (Teassential).

The new faces join incumbent board members Melanie Prince (Wayside Press), Andrew Fradley (Eclectic Med), Selena Stearns (Community Futures), Krystin Kempton (Nixon Wenger), and Cindy Marshall (Nolan’s Pharmasave).

“Our Board of Directors are an excellent representation of downtown Vernon’s business mix. We have entrepreneurs and professionals of every experience level, each bringing a unique strength and perspective to offer the DVA membership. I’m looking very forward to working with this group in the coming year,” says Susan Lehman, the association’s executive director.

The Downtown Vernon Association is made up of 550 more than businesses covering 46 city blocks. Its membership includes retail, dining, professional services, community services, and health and wellness providers.

Towers take over arena parking
Trevor Nichols - Mar 22 - Biz Releases

Image: City of Kelowna

The Vancouver company that owns Prospera Place has taken the first steps toward building a pair of highrise towers directly in front of the arena.

GSL Group has submitted plans to the City of Kelowna for two towers—stretching 37 and 27 storeys high—it wants to build on the Water Street property that currently acts as the arena’s main parking lot.

In a letter to the city outlining its plans, GSL Group says the site “represents a noteworthy major opportunity for development” in the area that will lead to the “creation of a well-designed entertainment district.”

GSL says the two towers will be primarily residential (with 332 total residential units) and set atop a retail podium that “playfully interacts with the plaza and streetscape in a dynamic layering of retail shops and cafes.”

In order to make the project possible the company is asking to rezone the property, which right now allows buildings as high as 12 storeys.

Parking predicament

Adam Cseke is a planner with the City of Kelowna. He points out that, while the property has been used as the arena’s de facto parking lot for some time, it is actually zoned for the kind of development GSL proposes.

“This is not required parking for the arena, so we’ve been in negotiations for a while now to talk about provision of public parking in lieu of losing this parking lot for the arena,” he said.

Cseke said negotiations between the city and GSL are still ongoing, but that the development right now contains five floors of parking garages, and one will likely be set aside for public use.

In early 2017 city council rejected a staff proposal to reduce parking requirements for the property, expressing concerns about parking in front of Prospera Place and saying it hopes any development there will accommodate arena parking.

The proponents

Headed up by Graham Lee, GSL Group is a Vancouver-based holding company that owns the Victoria Royals WHL hockey team, a private airplane charter business, a blueberry farm, an online fantasy sports website, as well as other properties.

It also has significant major real estate holdings and is associated with RG Properties, which owns and operates Prospera Place in Kelowna.

Prospera Place was built through a public-private partnership that saw RG Properties build and take ownership of the building for 30 years after it was completed.

With ownership of the building set to revert to the city in 2028, Cseke said the renegotiation of the Prospera lease could give the city some leverage in negotiating more public parking within the development.

He reiterated, however, that the application is still in its very early stages, and that it is still subject to more talks, as well as approval from Kelowna City Council.

GSL Group did not immediately return requests for more information.

Image: City of Kelowna

New president at URBA
Okanagan Edge Staff - Mar 22 - Biz Releases

Image: URBA

The Uptown Rutland Business Association hosted its annual general meeting earlier this month, electing a new board of directors and reviewing its previous year of work.

President Mike Koutsantonis said a major highlight from 2017 was URBA successfully securing it’s renewal with the City of Kelowna for the next five year.

The association also focused on it official strategic plan, beautification of Rutland, and hosting signature events in the community that support local business.

Koutsantonis also noted that URBA is enthusiastic about all the upcoming mixed-use developments slated for Rutland’s Towne Centre.

“It’s our mandate to advocate for economic and business development, raise the overall profile of the Rutland business community, and partner the City and Developers to create and area that prospers,” he said in a media release.

With the election of the new board, Koutsantonis will take on the new role of past president, making way for president-elect Dawn Thiessen.

URBA’s complete board for 2018  includes:

Returning Directors:

Dawn Thiessen, Aphrodite in Me Spa – president-elect

Mike Koutsantonis, Olympia Greek Taverna – past president

Jamie Needham, ISCU – first vice-president

Mark Beaulieu, Flashpoint Tattoo Company – second vice-president

Curtis Fieseler, Revolution Pharmacy

June Forman, MCC Thrift Shop

Kamal Shoranick, MKS Resources

Ruby Dulay, Centex Gas

Re-elected Directors:

Shelley Kvamme-MacDonald, CPA – treasurer

Newly elected Directors:

Dallas Crick, Century 21 Assurance Realty Ltd

Nick Aubin, Aubin and Associates

Appointed Directors:

Brad Sieben, City Councillor – Ex-Officio

Tracy Gray, CIty Councillor – Ex Officio

Frank Pohland, CTQ Consultants

Kevin McDougall, Community Policing

Local legion saved
Darren Handschuh - Mar 22 - Biz Releases

Image: Darren Handschuh
Vernon Legion president Bill Balcaen said a new executive has been elected, saving the legion.

The Vernon Legion is saved.

After the entire executive announced earlier this year that they were stepping down at the end of April, there was some concern the institute would close its doors after nearly 100 years of service in the community.

But Legion 25 President Bill Balcaen said enough people have stepped up to form a new executive.

“We elected a new slate of officers last night,” said Balcaen who has been involved with Legion executive in various capacities for six years.

“We have been doing this for six years, and we’re all very tired,” said Balcaen of why the executive is stepping down.

If a new executive was not secured by the end of April, the local legion would have closed its doors.

And that would have meant an end to long-time initiatives like the annual poppy campaign, bursaries and other programs.

“The concern got out through the media there was a chance we could lose the Vernon Legion. It rocked people back a little bit I think,” said Balcaen Wednesday. “This is great. We certainly didn’t want to see it go down.”

Balcaen will assume the role of immediate past president and will still attend every meeting to pass along his expertise, but the bulk of the work will be done by the new president who has yet to be announced.

City manager charged
Rob Gibson - Mar 22 - Okanagan Biz

Image: CTV

More turmoil in the Harbour city council chambers.

Court documents obtained by CTV Vancouver Island, show an application for a peace bond has been filed against Chief Administrative Officer Tracy Samra due to “fear of injury or damage by another person.”

The charges relate to Nanaimo’s suspended city manager in connection with alleged threats made against the city’s mayor and council.

Samra was arrested at Nanaimo City Hall on Jan. 31 for allegedly threatening Mayor Bill McKay and a council member.

Samra, speaking through her lawyer says she will eventually respond to the application for a peace bond.

“The response that Ms. Samra will give will come in due course,” said Robert Mulligan, counsel for Mulligan Tam Pearson Law Corporation. “We’ll need now to obtain disclosure of relevant information from the special prosecutor, assess that, have further discussions with the special prosecutor Mr. Klein and take informed instructions from my client.”

Samra is scheduled to be back in court March 27, but Mulligan said he expects that date to be pushed back to April.

-With files from CTV Vancouver Island

Public hears hotel proposal
Colton Davies - Mar 22 - Biz Releases

Dozens of people filled the Shatford Centre on Thursday afternoon to take in a second open house for a luxury hotel proposed to be built by Poplar Grove Winery on the Naramata bench.

Owner Tony Holler originally held an open house on the 20-unit hotel plans last month for neighbouring residents, before hosting Thursday’s session to preview a revised design.

The biggest change, he said, was that the hotel will be about 10 feet lower than originally planned by moving all parking underground. There will also be a terraced vineyard in front of the building as opposed to more conventional landscaping.

The luxury hotel would be built at 468 Lower Bench Road, directly below Poplar Grove Winery.

The new hotel, Holler said, would help accommodate a demographic of tourists that has more commonly been seen in the region.

“When I grew up here, the Okanagan was regarded as a place to have a cheap summer vacation. You had a lot of campgrounds, motels. The clientele coming up now, in particular because of the wine industry, is a different clientele, and has different needs,” he said.

Residents in favour of the hotel who spoke to Castanet at the open house said there is the need for high-end accommodation in that area.

“Everyone is down at the valley bottom, there’s nothing up there on the bench for tourists besides some Airbnb’s,” one man said.

Those against the plans, however, told Castanet the hotel is in the wrong location.

“There’s farming activity going on. This is not the right place for a hotel,” Cathy Rublee said, who lives across the street from the site and started a petition against the plans.

Staff with the City of Penticton were on hand to provide information to residents as well, as the site is within city limits.

Senior planner Blake Laven said the hotel would be in line with policies to support the city’s wine industry, included in the official community plan.

Laven said the city showed the plans to the agricultural advisory committee, which provided support. About one-third of the hotel’s property is on ALR land, which has never been used for farming.

“That gave us some confidence… Now it’s just how we can mitigate any negative impacts this type of land use would have on neighbouring properties.”

Beloved bakery closing
Colin Dacre - Mar 22 - Biz Releases

Image: Walla Foods
Benjamin Manea

A beloved Penticton bakery has announced its closure due to the ALS diagnosis of its owner.

Benjamin Manea has built a loyal following over the past decade with his long-fermented breads at Walla Artisan Bakery and Cafe in the Cannery Trade Centre.

In a letter to customers posted to Facebook this week, Manea summed up the “unexpected development” with a Yiddish saying, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.”

There is no cure for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Manea has been given three years to live.

“Despite my most careful planning, life took an unpredictable turn and perhaps this is one way that the universe signals to us that the perception of control is merely an illusion,” he wrote.

Manea explained his “retirement plan was nowhere in sight,” and he had hoped for many more years working 100 hours a week.

An expansion plan was in place to increase floor space and grow his product line to include pretzels, bagels and pita bread. He was also working towards opening a pub called “Walla After Hours” that would have served local beer, baking, pizza and sandwiches.

“Slow” was always his mantra, and time his ally in extracting flavours from bread, pickles and pastrami.

“I assumed that I had all the time in the world. Now, as I am running out of it, Walla will have to be liquidated, along with its legacy; the bread that was baked here and all other things that made your life better and brought a smile to your face — will fade into history.”

Manea’s wife, Sharon, says there has been an outpouring of support and love from the community since the closure was announced.

“They are streaming in, some of them are weeping and hugging him,” she said. “But he’s not dying yet, he’s still functioning and working and in really good spirits.”

“He doesn’t want people to come here and eat and have sad faces. He wants people to come here and enjoy, while he can still serve and do what he loves.”

Sharon says Manea plans on continuing to make bread and serve tables for “at least the next few weeks,” after which he will begin selling off equipment.

She said the location could work perfectly as a commissary kitchen, something the Okanagan currently lacks.

“Wouldn’t it be great, if all these people that are always coming around looking for a commercial kitchen to produce for the farmers market… maybe a few people could get together and buy it, run it, rent it.”

“Everyone you could need is here,” she added.

Manea is going ahead with a lecture, Beyond Sourdough, on April 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Shatford Centre.

Information on Manea’s baking schedule for the coming weeks can be found on Facebook.

Faces of #OKNTech
Accelerate Okanagan - Mar 21 - Columnists

Image: Accelerate Okanagan

A strong community can promote new ideas and ensure accountability. It can also act as motivation, support, and even provide a little friendly competition. The power of community is undeniable and the Okanagan tech community is no exception.

Our community is strong and growing with record speed and maintaining connection through a period of growth like this can be a challenge. Nobody panic, we’ve got a plan.

Introducing, The Faces of #OKGNtech (@OKGNtech). It’s a showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters, and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth, and more excitement.

Follow along (on the blog and on Instagram @okgntech) to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.

Meet Max. Max Colls is the director of marketing at DataNerds. We recently caught up with him to learn more about his role at Data Nerds and where he fits into our growing #OKGNtech community.

What do you enjoy about your role at Data Nerds?

“I come from a sales background, but Data Nerds has given me a chance to use my skills for more than just sales. Right now, I’m working in marketing communication, product marketing, business development, direct sales… the list goes on and on”.

What’s it like to work at Data Nerds? 

“The people I work with at Data Nerds are awesome, the work is challenging, and celebrating success is becoming a regular thing. Not a bad problem to have.”

What do you love about #OKGNtech?

“I love how tight-knit the #OKGNtech community is. There are opportunities everywhere here if you’re willing to find them and work hard for them.”

What do you want to be remembered for?

 “Our work in the US is really exciting… and disrupting. Our goal is to turn Estated into a household name and I love being a part of that [Editor’s Note: Estated is a Data Nerds product that provides property data solutions for buyers and sellers in the U.S.]

What’s the best piece of advice you can give us?

“The idea is really the easy part. I think it’s really important to commit to that idea and see it through. Ideas without follow through will always just be ideas.”

Who inspires you?

“The CEO of Data NerdsJosh Fraser is hugely inspiring for me. He’s so driven and passionate about what he does. There are so many ideas being thrown around and so much potential – I guess I just feel lucky to be a part of it.” #bossgoals

Who helped you get to where you are?

”My UBCO education was a game changer.  The Management Faculty and Management Student Association at UBCO really helped me establish my work ethic and think big picture.”

Connect with Max. Learn more about Data Nerds. Hungry for more? Meet Bri and Kris.

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