Chamber backs recovery plan
Okanagan Edge Staff - 4:35 pm - Biz Releases

Photo: Facebook

Kelowna Chamber of Commerce likes what it saw from the B.C. government’s economic recovery plan this week.

The chamber is happy with a variety of initiatives the government said it will introduce in an effort to help the province survive the COVID-19 pandemic, including a 100% PST rebate on machines and equipment, more investment in the Connecting British Columbia Program, and a small- and medium-sized business recovery grant.

“The Kelowna chamber supports the first steps in the province’s economic recovery plan,” Kelowna chamber president Jeffrey Robinson said in a press release. “We appreciate that government sees this as the next step, not the final step, on the road to recovery.”

Other positives from the Stronger BC plan, according to the chamber, are the helping of businesses in moving to online shops and e-commerce operations, as well as tax incentives to hire more workers.

KF submits centre plans
Okanagan Edge Staff - 12:30 pm - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

KF Aerospace has submitted a form and character development permit application to the City of Kelowna for its Centre for Excellence, which has been moved from its original intended location.

KF Aerospace, which bills itself as Kelowna’s largest private-sector employer, unveiled plans for the centre in June 2019. The company said it was going to build a $25-million, state-of-the-art aerospace exhibition hall and conference centre across from Kelowna International Airport.

The plans submitted this week have the centre located on the west side of the airport, north of the terminal between Highway 97 and Airport Way. The building is still shaped like an airplane, with two hangars on either side of the main building, but the new location will give planes easier access to the centre.

“The physical building and the interactive programs will be administered to further the reach of the company, the history of the airport and local aviation as well as promote the aviation industry to local businesses, tourist, citizens, and schools,” KF Aerospace wrote in its application.

The entire centre will have 50,000 square feet of space, and the original plans called for a museum, aircraft hangars, conference suites, classrooms, a cafeteria, airfield viewing gallery and 15,000 square feet of training space for aircraft maintenance engineering programs delivered by Okanagan College.

The original intention was for a groundbreaking ceremony to take place on March 25, but it appears those plans have been delayed.

Drivers earn job status
Nicholas Johansen - 8:44 am - Biz Releases

File photo: Nich Johansen

Kelowna’s only current ride-sharing company is now offering full-time positions for drivers, after ride-sharing giant Uber was recently criticized for not recognizing its drivers as employees.

After beginning service in Kelowna in early July, Victoria-based Lucky to Go announced Thursday it will now be hiring its drivers as full-time and casual employees.

“From the beginning, this was supposed to be an independent contractor-based business, but what we’re seeing is that a lot of places were having a lot of difficulty hiring drivers,” Lucky to Go CEO Mandeep Rana said.

“We said why not offer the full-time position and make sure they stay with us and we can grow the money and keep it in the community.”

Earlier this week, the president of UFCW Local 1518 in New Westminster urged Uber to recognize its drivers as employees, and ride-sharing drivers in Ontario and California have recently won their own battles in court.

Uber announced last week that it will be applying for a licence to operate in Kelowna, and it expects to have drivers on the road by Christmas season.

Rana says he hopes customers will support his B.C.-based company when Uber rolls into town.

“There’s going to be competition in the market, but we’re a local company and we would like the community to support a local business,” he said.

“We’re not leaving our drivers behind. We want them to be treated well. Giving them some sort of job security is what they’re looking for and what we’re looking forward to.”

Rana says there are about a dozen Lucky to Go drivers on Kelowna roads most days, which has been enough to meet the demand so far.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough for Lucky to Go, Rana says they’re still “growing our numbers every day.”

Silver Star sets opening date
John Lawless - 7:38 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

After much planning by staff, SilverStar Mountain Resort has announced its opening day for this ski season, along with updated information surrounding the rest of the hill’s operations.

The mountain will open on Friday, Dec. 4, weather permitting, and Nordic trails will open on Saturday, Nov. 28, with limited access to facilities. This is a later start date than usual, but the resort says this will provide high-quality experiences along with maintaining separation from others.

SilverStar expects to only be open to season pass holders on opening day and for a period of time after that to allow assessments of occupancy limits. Information regarding day ticket holders will be announced later.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure the longevity of the season,” SilverStar general manager Ken Derpak said. “We continue to monitor COVID-19, and, given its dynamic nature, we have prepared thorough and adaptable operations plans that put safety first.”

Parking will be moving to an online appointment-based system, which allows the resort to manage numbers and avoid congregations of people. Physical distancing will be in effect in lift areas, and attendants will not require users to ride a lift with someone they don’t know.

Face coverings will be mandatory indoors and when distancing is not possible, which includes riding the shuttle, waiting in line for the lift, loading and unloading from lifts, and in shops. The only exception to take it off is when you are eating or drinking, although SilverStar recommends bringing your own food to the hill.

“Physical distancing in lift queues occurs organically due to the length of skis and snowboards,” Derpak said. “Guests will notice additional spacing measures, including extended maze designs, more lateral spacing and increased signage, to further ensure a consistent flow of appropriately spaced traffic.”

In terms of seasonal passes, the quantity of POW passes and MY1 passes will be limited. After the passes are sold out, there will be a limited MY1 pass available to buy.

“This pass will give the same perks and benefits as the Unlimited MY1 pass, but will have some blackout days through the season,” Derpak said. “As we share these details with you today, we realize questions may arise over the coming weeks and we will provide further details as they are finalized.”

All pass holders will be covered by the SilverStar Passholder Promise, which allows full refunds before Dec. 1 and can be paid off through flexible payment plans.

“At our core, we are skiers and riders and there’s nothing we want more than to be on snow with friends and family,” Derpak said. “Let’s continue to take care of each other so that we can reunite on the mountain soon.”

For more information, you can visit the Silver Star website.

Rogers opens new space
Jon Manchester - 6:42 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Rogers Communications has virtually opened its major new customer solution centre in Kelowna.

More than 100 staff have already been hired and trained virtually, and the centre is expected to bring 350 new jobs to the local economy by 2021.

All positions will be work from home until the centre can be safely opened, the company said in a press release Friday morning.

“When we first announced our plan to open this new customer solution centre, none of us could have imagined we would be opening virtually, but we could not be more excited to welcome our new team from across the Okanagan region,” Rogers B.C. region president Rick Sellers said.

“Today marks an important step in our plan to deliver the best possible experience to our customers while strengthening our commitment to Kelowna with hundreds of new jobs.”

Employees at the new centre will handle approximately one million customer interactions a year.

The opening also celebrates the new Downie Wenjack Legacy Space inside the Kelowna centre. The meeting space, designed by local Indigenous artists, is dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of Indigenous art, history and culture.

Rogers commissioned artists Sheldon Pierre Louis of the Syilx Nation, Janine Marie Lott and Coralee Miller of Westbank First Nation to design pieces in the Legacy Space.

Earlier this month, Rogers announced Canada’s largest 5G network expansion to 26 communities across B.C., including the Okanagan, following a 5G smart city pilot with the City of Kelowna and UBC Okanagan. Rogers also launched network sites in West Kelowna and Osoyoos.

El Rancho site a no-go
Casey Richardson - Sep 17, 2020 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

The future of the El Rancho motel site in Penticton remains a question after council split votes evenly on Tuesday, effectively nixing a potential residential development on the lot.

The proposed change from tourist-commercial to urban-residential-commercial on the Westminster Avenue site led Mayor John Vassilaki, councillor Katie Robinson and councillor Judy Sentes to vote no, pushing instead for a hotel in the area close to Penticton Convention Centre.

“I believe we have a great opportunity here for a hotel site because of our convention site,” Vassilaki said. “We need top quality units or rooms for our tourists and people to come through.”

Councillor Robinson said she had some high hopes for this site.

“I really think it’s a lack of vision that may jeopardize the Trade and Convention Centre someday … You really have to think about the big picture, and I’m not sure that it is the right direction to go.”

But Councillor Julius Bloomfield was in favour of moving forward and brought up that the site has been sitting as tourist-commercial for a long time.

“It is still one of the biggest eyesores in this city and nothing has been done with it,” Bloomfield said.

“I would vote for it just to get it through to the public hearing stage to hear what the public has to say about this site.”

The report outlined that letters were sent to 550 owners and residents within 200 metres of the property, and 464 completed the survey.

The majority, 73% of respondents, reported open to changing the land use, and about half of those in support wanted to know more about the proposal.

“The owner is exploring how to incorporate short-term accommodation into a residential development, so still wanting to take advantage of the proximity to the trade and convention centre,” said Blake Laven, director of development services for the city.

The tie vote meant the motion failed, and discussion closed with council asking staff for a further report for properties suitable for hotels in the area.

Hackathon coming to Vernon
Okanagan Edge Staff - Sep 17, 2020 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Accelerate Okanagan is looking for North Okanagan entrepreneurs who are ready for their big idea to explode.

The tech incubator will be hosting the first North Okanagan Hackathon from the new Vernon Innovation and Entrepreneur Workspace on Thursday, Oct. 29. The event will be held virtually.

The event will bring people together in an effort to create innovations. Teams will be formed, and they will be introduced into a challenge statement. The teams will then start working on business models and prototypes, which will be presented to a panel of judges at the end of the day. The public will be able to watch the final pitches online, but virtual “seats” must be reserved.

“Events like the Talent Hackathon are just one of the ways we hope The VIEW will help bring the network of innovators and creators in the North Okanagan together,” Accelerate Okanagan community manager Alex Goodhew said in a press release. “The more opportunities for collaboration means increased innovation, and that can only mean good things for the community.”

More information about the North Okanagan Hackathon can be found here.

Film crews in Kamloops
Brendan Kergin - Sep 17, 2020 - Biz Releases

Photo: Brendan Kergin

A local film production will be shutting down sections of Fourth Avenue and Victoria Street in Kamloops on Sunday.

From 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. the section of Fourth between Seymour Street and Victoria Street will be blocked off, along with the section of Victoria between Third Avenue and Fourth while a crew shoots scenes for Outrunners, according to an email to local businesses from the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association.

The film is a very Kamloops production, helmed and written by Kamloops-born Ken Hegan; local producer Vesta Giles is also involved.

It tells the story of a young woman racing against time during a pandemic to save her mother. And there are snipers and reality TV drones following her.

There will be protesters and fake guns on set, the write-up notes.

In the letter, producers note people may watch the process, but must stand back and allow for social distancing. Crew members will be on scene to help guide the public.

The film crew was downtown on Tuesday, shooting a scene in the alley between Third and Fourth avenues and Seymour and Victoria streets.

Tourism hopping in Penticton
Casey Richardson - Sep 17, 2020 - Biz Releases

Photo: Casey Richardson

A tourism update from Travel Penticton gave a detailed summer review and outlined how Penticton and B.C. were faring in the hardships of COVID-19, still seeing travellers come in despite the smoke.

“Certainly with COVID it’s been an interesting one,” said Thom Tischik, executive director for Travel Penticton, during a presentation to Penticton council on Tuesday.

Travel Penticton’s visitors’ centre next to the Peach has been a “great situation,” according to Tischik, allowing them to connect with visitors throughout the summer.

“At the end of the summer, the demographic of visitors changed like a light switch, from being family and younger people. Now what I call my age, people that are a little more mature for travellers coming in.”

“Even with the smoke, we’re getting in the neighbourhood of 70 people a day. People are still travelling, places are booked.”

Tischik reported that because the Christie Mountain Wildfire was contained very quickly, it did not keep away tourists. Travel Penticton was able to “mitigate the media hype and damage that could have happened with it.”

The organization also shared their data from total night stays in B.C., comparing July 2019 versus July 2020. Overall the province is down 23% from last year and the Thompson Okanagan area is down 17%.

Occupancy rates for Penticton are down by 15% from last year, sitting at 68% compared to 83. Prices in hotel rooms didn’t fall by much, sitting at $184.63 for an average daily rate compared to last year’s $198.58.

Overall, BC Travel is down by 19% compared to July of last year.

Although the campgrounds in the area are absolutely packed, according to Tischik, but “what we don’t have this year is the European travellers,” which often help boost fall tourism.

“Our cash flow which is normally strongest this time of year, is fairly grim.”

Travel Penticton plans to base their decision for promotion and advertising on what happens with COVID-19 and what stage the province is at.

Plans include promoting fall and winter activities to B.C. residents in Thompson-Okanagan and Vancouver as well as move to collaborate with Apex Mountain resort, Nickel Plate, Chute Lake Lodge and other suppliers for getaway vacations.

Mansion up for auction
John Lawless - Sep 17, 2020 - Biz Releases

Do you have a few million dollars to spare?

If you do, you might want to consider looking at a waterfront mansion that’s being offered in an unreserved auction.

While the thought of snapping up a luxury home for pocket change is enticing, you had still better have deep pockets. Initial bidding is already well into the seven-figure range.

Still, the idea of a bargain lured us out to take a look.

The home, located at 8200 Kalavista Dr. in Coldstream, is valued at $11.5 million. It has six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a home theatre, a billiards room, hot tub and a backyard with a private beach.

The house is nearly 10,000 square feet, with outdoor and indoor seating options in a quiet neighbourhood.

“I’ve seen some nice homes with Concierge, but the quality of construction on this one is unparalleled,” says Ian Johnson, project sales manager at Concierge Auctions. “It’s really well put together and really well designed, too.”

Concierge Auctions provides online bidding to clients all over the world. It is a third-party agency that handles the auction aspect when dealing with luxury homes.

The mansion has had quite a bit of interest already, considering its high valuation.

“We’ve had over 40 qualified showings, which are people who have the ability to participate in the auction financially and who have an interest in the property,” Johnson said. “I’ve also had well over a hundred people come look at the home through our open house process.”

Bidding closes on Friday, and the initial offer made on Tuesday was called in at $6.2 million. For more information, you can visit the home’s listing on Concierge’s website.

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