Local cells powering UBER
Trevor Nichols - 8:34 am - Biz Releases

Image: Facebook

A Maple Ridge company will soon be providing battery cells to a big-name tech company.

At its annual Elevate Summit, Uber announced it has entered into a partnership with E-One Moli Energy that will see it purchase battery cells for the small, electric aircraft the company hopes to one day operate.

Uber’s Elevate initiative has it planning for a network of aircraft that will help it fly small groups of passengers around large cities. Uber says its eVTOL aircraft will be quieter, safer and cheaper than traditional helicopters.

Moli, which has been tapped to provide battery cells for the craft’s propulsion systems, has decades in the energy industry and has been a leader in the lithium-ion battery business.

Moli will work with Uber’s battery team to develop the battery packs that will power eVTOL.

KGH land use in spotlight
Wayne Moore - 7:25 am - Biz Releases

Image: Google Maps

Residents living around Kelowna General Hospital are invited to provide input into how the area known as the health district grows over the long term.

With the area’s parking plan now put to bed, the city is focusing on regulations around the long-term land use of the health district and areas east of Pandosy Street.

“Kelowna General Hospital has expanded significantly over the last few years, presenting an opportunity to review livability in the surrounding neighbourhood,” says land-use planner Melanie Steppuhn.

“We encourage area residents to get involved as we plan for potential redevelopment of the hospital district.”

The city will host an open house to discuss future land use around the hospital Thursday, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. in the Clinical Academic Campus Lecture Theatre at 2312 Pandosy St.

Board game born here
Madison Erhardt - 6:00 am - Biz Releases

A unique board game designed and produced right here in Kelowna could be seen on the shelves across Canada very shortly.

“This is one of the first true battle royale tabletop experiences,” said Creator Brendan McCaskell.

In Last One Standing: The Battle Royale Board Game, up to eight players find themselves on an ever-shrinking map where they must move, loot and shoot to be the last one standing.

Picture it as the Fortnite of tabletop gaming.

“It’s set up on Kickstarter. Right now we are at 340 backers. Those are people who are committed to supporting the project. In total we have raised over $18,000and we are at 76 per cent of the goal,” McCaskell added.

Last One Standing needs to reach a goal of $24,000 in the next few weeks.

The young entrepreneur says he has had the idea of creating a board game for quite a while.

“I had this idea for a Battle Royale type of board game and I kind of combined those ideas together and took it one step at a time.”

“I’ve done a lot of play testing and forcing my friends to play this game until it became fun,” McCaskell said.

The game runs for $40 (U.S) and $52 Canadian on Kickstarter .

Chamber preps for AGM
Trevor Nichols - May 21 - Biz Releases

Image: Trevor Nichols
Kelowna Chamber of Commerce president Carmen Sparg

The proposed speculation tax, the new payroll tax, and electoral reform top the list of policy concerns as the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce prepares for the BC Chamber AGM, which will start May 24 in Kamloops.

The Kelowna Chamber hosted a review session for all eight valley Chambers of Commerce, where chamber executive directors and board members came together to review locally-generated policies.

Carmen Sparg, the president of the Kelowna chamber, is attending the Kamloops session.

“Garnering the most interest of the valley policies being tabled in Kamloops is the Kelowna-originated policy ‘Anti-Canadian Tariff: Pressing the Pause Button on BC’s Proposed Speculation Tax.’ Even before the draft policy manual was published late last week, twelve chambers throughout the province had heard of our new policy and had signed on to support,” she says.

The Speculation Tax policy reflects the reaction of business and industry over what it feels is a lack of consultation prior to the tax changes introduced earlier this year.

“The lack of consultation or economic analysis is highlighted in the policy’s background. Recommendations to the provincial government include scrapping the tax altogether; clarifying the economic impact and demonstrating how the tax makes housing more affordable; and monitoring supply and demand. We’ve heard loud and clear from our members that the negative effects of this policy are resonating throughout multiple industries in Kelowna,” the Co-Chair of Kelowna’s Policy Advisory committee, Ron Cannan, says.

Other policies written by the Kelowna chamber’s policy committee include a call for Agricultural Land Commission regulation reform; engaging businesses and the community on electoral reform; increasing the impact of the digital media industry; reducing or removing the inter-provincial trade barriers to the beer and wine industries; and property transfer tax reform.

Millions used library
Trevor Nichols - May 21 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

Since 2012, the Okanagan Regional Library system has seen a nearly 80 per cent increase in the number of people using its programming.

According to the ORL annual report, 165,243 people attended ORL programs and used Library meeting spaces last year. That, on top of the 1,602,829 people who walked through the doors.

Those millions of patrons logged onto wifi services 1,199,074 times in 2017, a 10 per cent increase over the previous year. There was also a 44 per cent increase in PressReader articles read, with 595,395 people using the service.

Finally, 2,857,273 books, magazines, and other materials were borrowed from the Okanagan library system.

All that activity saw ORL come up with an $8,586 deficit for the year, with total revenues coming in slightly higher than last year, at $18,194,538.

At its recent annual general meeting where the report was tabled, the ORL board also approved an Access Card pilot project that will help individuals with no fixed address or proof of residence gain access to library services.

The library also plans to open a new self-service point at  UBCO this fall, and open a new Westside Learning Centre in the Okanagan Lake Shopping Centre in West Kelowna.

It has also just acquired a 3D printer, which will tour the library’s 29 branches from June to September.

$200K extra for homes
Trevor Nichols - May 21 - Biz Releases

Image: The Canadian Press

The average Kelowna homeowner paid $207,000 more for their home than it is technically worth, thanks to zoning regulations, development charges, and other policies dramatically pushing up the cost of construction.

A new report from The C.D. Howe Institute shines a light on what authors Benjamin Dachis and Vincent Thivierge say are barriers to building new homes that are responsible for the high prices in some of Canada’s tightest housing markets.

The report starts with the well-studied idea that, in a healthy housing market, a new home should sell for approximately what it cost to build.

If a home is priced far above the cost of the labour and materials it took to build it, the report says it’s usually because there are “barriers that inhibit new construction,” and that those barriers usually stem from “excessive regulations.”

The problem, the authors say, is that most governments trying to tackle housing shortages have focused primarily on pushing down demand, without taking “meaningful” steps to increase the housing supply.

“Yet evidence from around the world shows that government policies limiting the supply of housing are among the key causes of higher house prices,” the authors say.

They argue that owners of vacant land compete with each other to sell their land to housing developers. In a market with lots of vacant plots, landowners will compete fiercely, reducing the cost of land.

If land is scarce, however, landowners in areas where governments allow development have market power. As a result, they can charge developers a higher price for land–and that will be reflected in a higher cost for the homebuyer.

Image: C.D. Howe Institute

To determine how this dynamic affects home prices, the authors calculated how much it should cost to build a home in specific areas, if developers only had to worry about materials and labour. They then compared that number to the actual cost of homes in the area.

In most cities, the difference between the building construction cost per square foot and the market price per square foot is “close to zero,” something the authors say is usual for a “normally functioning” housing market.

However, in the eight cities where the difference was most dramatic, homebuyers paid an average of $230,000 extra for a new house thanks to limits on building.

In Kelowna, which is among those cities, the average new home cost $207,000 more than it would in a “normally functioning” market, with restrictions bumping up the price by a full 27 per cent.

To combat these extra-high prices, the authors recommend “three obvious steps” for governments trying to regulate home prices.

First is to remove zoning barriers that restrict building on certain, in-demand land.

Next, the authors say municipalities should remove water and wastewater services from development cost charges, and replace them with a utility-based, fee-for-use model. DCC’s can inflate the cost of a development, and that cost gets passed on to homebuyers.

Finally, the authors recommend easing restrictions on greenfield housing development (not long ago, a UBC professor advocated for developing on the Agricultural Land Reserve in Kelowna as a way to combat rising home prices).

New treats at the Peach
Chelsea Powrie - May 21 - Biz Releases

The iconic Peach on the Beach in Penticton has some new treats to offer this summer, which they showed off at their official opening weekend.

Owner Diana Stirling said it was a successful opening weekend, despite flooding in the South Okanagan and Okanagan Lake being closed. She said new items on the menu are going to be very exciting for customers.

“Get ready, because you will want to get your phones out, you’ll want to Instagram it, it’s so much fun,” Stirling said.

The new “Crazy Cones” include a “Unicone,” which involves blue ice cream, sprinkles and cotton candy.

And of course, the classic Crazy Shakes are still available as well.

Despite gloomy skies, the Peach had a steady stream of customers Sunday.

Hotel planning expansion
Colton Davies - May 21 - Biz Releases

Image: Town of Osoyoos
A rendering showing the Super 8 Motel in Osoyoos with a new three-storey wing, which is being proposed.

The 42-room Super-8 Hotel in Osoyoos will asking town council for permission to develop a new three-storey wing with 26 new rooms.

Owner Terry Deol is proposing to build the new wing and add parking and landscaping to the property, which is located adjacent to Main Street and Peanut Pond at 8010 Valiant Lane.

Deol has owned the property since 2004 and has operated the hotel as a Super 8 since 2009. He said this development permit goes back nine years when the property was first rezoned to allow for an expansion of the hotel.

If all goes to plan, Deol said he hopes construction can begin after the summer tourist season.

Mayor and council in Osoyoos will discuss the application during Monday’s council meeting.

A show like no other
Darren Handschuh - May 21 - Biz Releases

The 100th Falkland Stampede is in full swing and there are several special events planned to mark the milestone.

The rodeo welcomed a special guest over the weekend: 15-time PRCA entertainer of the year John Payne who will perform today and Monday.

Also known as The One Armed Bandit because he is missing his right arm, Payne has entertained at rodeos throughout North America.

His unique act includes two very large bison, his friend Bink Picard, a big truck and trailer and couple of horses.

Payne said he feels honoured to have been asked to perform in Falkland.

“It’s a big celebration and I like big parties, so I brought something a little special: I brought my buffalos from Oklahoma up,” said Payne. “We’re the only people in the world that have a show like what I do.”

Payne said his show consists of “a lot of cowboy stuff” including riding his horse on top of a large trailer and spinning in circles while cracking a whip.

Born in Oklahoma in 1953, it was in 1973 that his life took a dramatic turn.

Payne was helping his dad tear down a house when he climbed a pole to cut some electrical wires he thought had been turned off.

After having 7,200 volts of electricity course through his body, Payne fell to the ground where he was ‘dead’ for five minutes before a friend revived him with CPR.

Payne was severely injured and doctors said they would have to amputate his left leg but he told them; “I can’t ride a horse with one leg, and if I can’t ride a horse I don’t want to live.”

The doctors did, however, cut off his right arm below his shoulder.

Payne went on to become one of the most highly-respected rodeo entertainers on the circuit.

Okanagan Edge this week
Trevor Nichols - May 19 - Biz Releases

Image: Okanagan Edge

Okanagan Edge This Week is our look back at the past week in business in the Okanagan Valley, and beyond.

Local business news

Tourism Kelowna bullying members?

Image: Google Maps

Some Tourism Kelowna members say the organization is out of bounds with its plans to book activities for its members. Tourism Kelowna says it’s not fair to put the needs of a few members above the needs of all the rest.

Cannabis firm buys mill site

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen has approved the construction of a massive marijuana grow facility in Okanagan Falls on the old Weyerhaeuser mill site.

Image: Trevor Nichols

Casino workers nearing strike?

A vocal group of employees from four of the Okanagan’s largest casinos rallied in Kelowna this week as their union headed back to the bargaining table.

Approximately 1,400 employees of Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Limited are pressuring the company to pay them a living wage.

Cancellations hit hotels

Osoyoos hotels faced mass cancellations this week in the face of flooding.

Image: Kurt Bauschardt, Flickr

Rent still falling in Kelowna

The average rent in Kelowna has now gone down for the past two months.

According to the PadMapper Canadian Rent Report, the average one-bedroom apartment in the city rented for $1,120 a month in April, a 3.5 per cent dip from February, when average rates topped out at $1,160.

 

Hampton plans move forward

Plans are moving forward for the next major international hotel in Kelowna’s growing Airport Business Park.

Issues

Exploring pot on the ALR

Image: Contributed

Colliers International is making an economic argument for growing recreational cannabis on the agricultural land reserve.

Get ready for pot tourism

Tourism-industry experts say the Okanagan’s cannabis industry is going to have to welcome illicit growers to the table if it wants to truly succeed.

People in business

Change-up at Black Hills

Image: Facebook

The head winemaker at Black Hills Estate Winery is stepping back from his position.

Provincial business news

Victoria top spot for luxury

Image: Twitter

Victoria has landed the top spot on Christie’s global list of hottest luxury housing markets.

‘Craft cannabis’ in danger?

Craft cannabis growers and sellers in British Columbia want the federal and provincial governments to take immediate steps to protect the future of their businesses ahead of legalization expected this year.

Feature Column

We won’t be able to help you

Photo: Contributed

Bill Hubbard gives his take on new “dual agency” rules for realtors.

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