College puts out casting call
Okanagan Edge Staff - 2:35 pm - Biz Releases

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Okanagan College continues to churn out new programs.

The latest is the licensed practical nurse orthopaedic program, which is scheduled to start in January 2022. The online certificate program is the first of its kind in B.C., allowing locals to expand their skills without having to look outside the province.

“This program will meet the provincial need for a local solution for training opportunities to build the skills and capacity of nurses to support the orthopaedic needs of British Columbians,” B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix. “This is the result of strong partnerships between health authorities, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, BC College of Nurses and Midwives, and the BC Nurses’ Union with Okanagan College to shape the program and ensure it was tailored to the B.C. health care context.”

The certificate program will consist of online theory learning and a practicum that will take place at Okanagan College-approved locations within each student’s local health authority or community.

“Nurses who complete the training will be able to apply for orthopaedic technician vacancies within many of our Interior Health casting clinics,” Interior Health director of clinician education Aneta D’Angelo said. “With every health authority in B.C. seeking LPNs to work in casting clinics, the employment opportunities are extremely promising.”

Symphony ready for audiences
Okanagan Edge Staff - 12:38 pm - Biz Releases

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The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra is preparing to perform in front of live audiences this winter.

The OSO announced its 2021-22 schedule on Wednesday, and it will get its season started on Oct. 23 with “A New Dawn” at Kelowna Community Theatre. The performance will also be streamed live for those who cannot be in attendance.

“It’s such a delight to be thinking and imagining having live audiences this season,” OSO music director and conductor Rosemary Thomson said in a press release.

“I’m so happy to share with you the concerts we have planned—eight diverse, wonderful concerts that we hope will reflect the times we are living in now, with hope, with renewal and with a new dawn.”

The orchestra will perform one show a month in each of Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton until May, with the season set to conclude on May 15 with Back to Beethoven.

Ticket holders will have to show their BC vaccination card to gain access to the theatres.

Tickets will go on sale Oct. 1, but the October concert will allow for only 50% capacity. The box office at Rotary Centre for the Arts will be the ticket agent for Kelowna and Penticton performances, while Vernon Ticket Seller remains the agent for performances at Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre.

RDCO eyes development upgrades
Okanagan Edge Staff - 9:54 am - Biz Releases

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The Regional District of Central Okanagan hopes a new grant will help streamline development and support economic recovery.

The RDCO received $371,000 from the Union of BC Municipalities to develop a new development approvals improvement strategy.

“Throughout the development of this strategy, the regional district intends to review what we currently do to see what is working and what is not,” RDCO community services director Todd Cashin said in a press release.

“The goal is to update or create internal approvals and communications procedures that will result in more effective engagement regarding development processes.”

The grant will go towards new software and an online application portal, and the organization will review existing bylaws and processes while developing new standard templates and guidelines.

“Over the past five years we’ve seen development trends continue to increase across the region,” RDCO chairperson Gail Given said. “This is having a direct impact and putting pressure on rural land in the Central Okanagan East and Central Okanagan West electoral areas.

“By putting a streamlined strategy for development approvals into practice, we hope to raise awareness and understanding of the regional district process and strive for consistency across the region. And at the same time, we’ll create a more transparent and efficient process for potential applicants, while meeting the planning and policy objectives of the RDCO.”

The RDCO was one of 43 communities to receive funds from the provincial government.

Hotel room tax hike approved
Casey Richardson - 8:59 am - Biz Releases

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Penticton city council voted unanimously in favour of passing the municipal and regional district tax (MRDT) bylaw for a 1% tax increase on Tuesday.

Previously, council had chosen to shoot down a request from Travel Penticton Society to become the designated recipient of the hotel room tax, but did support the motion to increase the tax from 2% to 3% on temporary-stay units.

The hotel room tax could generate an additional $250,0000 annually and would come into effect on July 1, 2022 , lasting through June 30, 2027.

Councillors also approved for online accommodation funds to be allocated by the city towards affordable housing.

Funds collected through the MRDT are designated specifically for local tourism marketing, projects and programs to help grow revenues and jobs in tourism-centric locations in British Columbia.

Councillors will be giving the official reading for the bylaw adoption on Thursday.

Big White prepares for winter
Rob Gibson - 7:48 am - Biz Releases

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Big White Ski Resort is preparing for another COVID-19 ski season.

Skiers will be able to access lifts, retail, rentals, washrooms and cafeteria tables in the day lodges without a vaccine passport, but if you want to sit down at a restaurant, you’ll need to have proof of vaccination and a mask.

Resort senior vice-president Michael J. Ballingall says those are the biggest questions they are being asked in advance of winter.

For those who are worried about the rules changing again or the resort being shut down, Big White is offering a “no questions asked” refund policy right up until opening day. The resort will also offer a refundable pass option that people can purchase for $25.

Ballingall says planning for the ski season has been complicated. They have three different scenarios they are working with right now, and that may change again by opening day, Nov. 25.

“There will be very few people at the resort who aren’t double vaccinated. Those who aren’t vaccinated are still welcome but they will have to wear a mask and keep their distance,” he said.

Big White has learned lessons from the last ski season, and they will be leaving the picnic tables and outdoor washrooms out this year. Ballingall says he expects the tailgating in the parking lot to continue.

“Outside is better than inside,” he said. “We will have lots of outdoor seating. It’ll be whatever you’re comfortable doing.”

Ballingall says he expects 80% of skiers this season will be from B.C., and unlike last season they will not be refusing any accommodation bookings. “We’re not doing that this year. We’re leaving the accommodations open for Canadians this year.”

Big White has been struggling with online booking for about week now, but they have their online system back up and running.

“We’re back up as of (Tuesday). When your servers go down, it’s frustrating for everybody.”

Council wants off-site sales
Casey Richardson - Sep 21, 2021 - Biz Releases

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Penticton city council is pushing to remove the red tape for off-site winery and liquor sales.

The city reports getting strong support from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference, which members of council attended last week.

A resolution was brought forward by Coun. Julius Bloomfield on behalf of council, with 84% of attending members during Thursday’s meeting supporting Penticton’s request that UBCM ask the BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General to revise licensing regulations so as to allow wineries and liquor manufacturers the opportunity to establish tasting rooms at non-agricultural locations.

“We were very pleased to see the UBCM membership support this resolution,” Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki said in the release.

“With wine and liquor manufacturing being such an important industry, not just in the Okanagan, but across B.C., and with tasting rooms contributing significantly to local economic development, creating opportunities that improve access to these facilities by removing restrictive regulations directly helps all communities benefiting from the jobs and products this industry produces.”

The current regulations mandate for B.C. wineries and liquor manufacturers to locate their tasting rooms on the agricultural lands where their products are made.

Council argues that this condition limits visitor access while also increasing demands to develop agricultural land for non-agricultural use.

“As the next step, we hope our passed resolution receives further support once it’s presented to the province.”

The annual UBCM conference draws elected municipal officials together from across B.C. to review topics and resolutions of common and emerging interest. This year’s event was held Sept. 14-17 with participating members of Penticton city council attending virtually.

Cash flows to water study students
Okanagan Edge Staff - Sep 20, 2021 - Biz Releases

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(L to R): Ryan Fortes, Richard Graham and Vladimir Tuazon.

Three Okanagan College water engineering technology students have scored financial prizes for their commitment to their field and good grades.

Ryder Fortes, Richard Graham and Vladimir Tuazon were recipients of the Outstanding Student Awards from the Environmental Operators Certification Program. The three students are taking the Water Engineering Technology diploma program at Okanagan College.

“In my experience, the WET program fosters a great community of people whose goals and aspirations are to conserve and improve the world’s most precious resource,” Fortes said in a press release. “The program gave me a new perspective on what happens to water in the environment and made me want to be a better steward of this resource.”

The EOCP Outstanding Student Award is a cash prize awarded to second year students in water and waste-water programs who have obtained good grades in their program of study, as well as showing a commitment to the field of water and waste-water.

“Generally, I find that waste-water treatment is an aspect of our communities that many people don’t give much thought to, which was certainly the case for me prior to entering the program,” Graham said. “Both of my co-op work terms were spent at waste-water treatment plants and I really enjoyed being able to apply what I had learned in class.

“I came away with a much better understanding of the course material due to first-hand experience.”

Good ski condo deals to be had
Glacier Media - Sep 20, 2021 - Biz Releases

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Big White is among resorts with ski condos priced at a fraction of a typical strata apartment.

The average price of a condominium apartment in Kelowna is now around $445,000, and it spikes north of $600,000 in Metro Vancouver, but it is possible to buy fully furnished condos at some of B.C.’s premier ski resorts for a fraction of that cost.

At Big White, ranked the second best ski hill in the province, buyers can find studio and one-bedroom condominiums from $127,900 to $139,000. SilverStar Mountain resort, above Vernon, has one-bedroom condos priced from $317,000. Even at Whistler, ranked the No. 1 ski resort in Canada, there are ski condos priced at less than $300,000, based on recent listings.

However, there are often caveats with what appear to amazing deals for ski condos this season.

James Henry, a real estate agent with Realty One Real Estate Ltd. in Kelowna, who has a Big White ‘hotel-condo’ listed at $139,000, explained that it would be difficult to live full time in the unit since, as a hotel room, it does not have a vented kitchen.

“Technically, there are no restrictions on how long you can stay in the room,” he added.

Owners can also link the suite to the hotel’s rental pool, which splits the total rental income among the members.

Joan Wolf, a Kelowna Century 21 realtor specializing in Big White properties, has an affordable condo listed at Big White that is a conventional strata with freehold title. The 300-square-foot studio is priced at $134,900 and has a vented kitchen. It can also be joined to a rental system.

Henry added that the hot Kelowna market has reached Big White, where a conventional three-bedroom strata-titled ski condo can sell for $800,000 or more. Henry recently had two such listings, priced from $825,000 to $845,000.

“The listings barely saw the light of day before they sold with no subjects,” he said.

The lower-cost condos at SilverStar are traditional condos, which allow year-round use by the owners.

When Western Investor dug into the details on the lowest-priced Whistler condos, it turns out the $295,000 units were under a long-term lease agreement that did not allow conventional mortgage financing. There are even less expensive offerings, but they invariably are restricted to the amount of days an owner can use them, or were priced as quarter-share arrangements, with hefty monthly fees.

The benchmark price of a conventional Whistler condo is now $591,000, according to latest data from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

B.C. ski resort real estate agents are expecting ski condo and villa sales to be strong this season.

Bill Hanrahan, a long-time Sun Peaks realtor with Re/Max Alpine Resort Realty, said things are looking up after a difficult period at the start of the pandemic.

“It’s definitely stronger than it was last year,” Hanrahan told Castanet. “The COVID situation really slowed things down until June of this year.”

The quick sale of Sun Peak’s new Altitude development, which features 40 two- and three- bedroom condos and townhouse, is seen as evidence of the strong demand.

The project is a joint venture between A&T Project Developments and Sun Peaks Resort LLP, and was offered for sale through Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, Sun Peaks.

“Basically it sold out in a weekend, and that’s indicative of the demand and the scarcity of product,” Hanrahan said.

Hanrahn added that steadily rising home prices in the Lower Mainland have also been a factor, as some look to cash out on that market and invest in the Interior.

According to a recently released Royal LePage report, the aggregate price of a house in B.C.’s recreational regions is forecast to increase 13% in 2021 to $781,918.

Wolf said the demographic of who is purchasing ski condos has changed dramatically. She said whereas the domestic market was a fraction of overall purchasers in years past, that has changed since 2020.

“What I’ve noticed now is 80 per cent to 90 per cent of purchasers are Canadians,” she said.

Wolf added travel restrictions have played into domestic demand.

“Many wealthy Canadians don’t perceive themselves travelling in the future, like in the next couple years, so having something on Canadian soil is what everyone’s looking for.”

Don Kassa, a Re/Max realtor working in Vernon and SilverStar Mountain Resort, said the resort has seen high demand as well.

He said sales in all sorts of recreational properties in the Vernon area have been strong.

Moreover, it’s a trend that he believes will continue going forward.

“I would suggest that people continue will continue to invest more in regional recreational properties,” Kassa said.

MovieMart era comes to end
Kristen Holliday - Sep 20, 2021 - Biz Releases

When Denis Walsh first opened MovieMart’s doors, VHS tapes cost nearly $100 apiece.

It was December 1982, and Walsh had purchased 50 or 60 movies from a distributor in Seattle to stock his first video rental business—a small, 600 square-foot shop in North Kamloops’ Fortune Shopping Centre.

Fast-forward to 2021 and MovieMart’s collection—now totalling 25,000 films—has changed hands for the first time in its nearly 40 years in operation.

Walsh said the most rewarding part about running the video rental store was the relationships he created over the decades.

“Other than having access to all these movies, and being able to choose which ones to buy, I would just say it was all about the people,” Walsh said.

“I had incredible staff, and you really create relationships with staff, and even customers. Even to probably today, I still have people that I met through the video business. It was just that human connection, the community part, it was a real big part of the community.”

Walsh said there were about nine MovieMart stores over the course of 40 years, starting with locations on the North Shore and Valleyview, Westsyde, Sahali and along Tranquille.

“It was a real weekly tradition almost for families to come out and rent videos on Friday, Saturday, and there was the people that were just fanatics that almost were in every second day, sometimes every day,” he said.

“It was a whole different scene back then. And it lasted for, you know, probably at least 20 years really strong.”

Back in the day, Walsh said, video tapes were very valuable—so much so that they were often targeted by thieves.

He said one person went into MovieMart’s bathroom and climbed up into the ceiling, where he waited for nightfall before descending into the store to snatch up a number of tapes.

“Back then it was it was a very popular product, and people would do all kinds of things to try to get to it,” Walsh said.

He said at that time, the competition was so fierce that other video rental chains would enact what amounted to turf wars—owners would try to buy up stores or run each other out of town.

Walsh said he got tired of the game and sold his North Shore store to Movie Gallery on one condition.

“They allowed me one section of town, which was the downtown core,” he said.

“There wasn’t enough residential population downtown at that time. So I agreed, and I sold them the store, and I moved the store down here to Seymour. … Since then, I’ve been in three different locations in the downtown core.”

The final MovieMart was located at St. Paul Street and Fourth Avenue. It closed last month.

Walsh said the most challenging part of owning a video rental store was the competition, especially with large chains that came into town.

However, he said Kamloops residents were always supportive of the local business.

“People develop relationships with the staff. And movies are very specific, similar to music tastes. So you’d find your staff member that you really kind of related to. They related to your tastes in movies,” he said. “If you had great staff and a location, and you bought your movies properly, you could outlast the others.”

Walsh said he has wondered whether MovieMart has been the longest continuously running video store in the world, with nearly 40 years under its belt.

It probably isn’t, but it’s close.

Dave Taylor, who co-owns 20th Century Flicks, a video rental store in Bristol, U.K., said his business opened sometime around March 1982.

Taylor said in an email to Castanet he passes on his best wishes and warm congratulations to MovieMart, regardless of opening date.

“I know that if anyone is still doing this, it’s not for the money,” he said.

Taylor told Castanet his biggest challenge owning the video shop is facing a future closure, especially as the technology landscape has shifted, and rentals are no longer as popular as they once were.

“What I dread most is writing that email,” he said. “I’ve seen it so many times in Bristol, like really loved businesses send out these horrible newsletters saying, ‘We’ve had a great time, but we’re closing up,’ and I never want to write one of them.”

Taylor said the most rewarding part is the community the store attracts.

Throughout COVID-19 lockdowns, Taylor said the value of films—and the video rental store—became clear, as people would come in, rent movies and spend time talking about the films they picked up.

“People were just renting them out and showing them to their family, and taking stock of their lives and just reflecting on their childhoods and things that meant something to them,” he said. “All these films started to represent just these tiny little episodes in lots of different people’s lives. And that was quite striking.”

As Walsh reflects back on his time owning the business, he said the video store was not just important as a community hub, but a place where people could find entertainment that could also teach them about other cultures and lifestyles.

“I think movies are very important, especially the ones that are really well done. They really open our eyes to what else is out there in the world. And they kind of show us they bring us together too,” he said.

“All over the world, everybody pretty well has the same ideals and the same goals and somewhat the same values too. The exposure is really phenomenal, I think, from movies.”

MovieMart’s collection has been transferred over to the Kamloops Film Society.

Dusan Magdolen, executive director for KFS, said the society is getting set up to open a rental store inside the Paramount Theatre.

Some duplicates will be put up for sale at the end of September, and Magdolen said he hopes to have the films ready for rental in October.

Penticton eyes hotel tax hike
Casey Richardson - Sep 20, 2021 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Penticton city council will be deciding on Tuesday whether or not to approve the municipal and regional district tax (MRDT) bylaw to impose a 1% tax increase.

Council decided on Aug. 17 not to support Travel Penticton Society’s request to become the designated recipient of the hotel room tax but did support the motion to increase the tax from 2% to 3% on temporary-stay units.

Councillors also approved for online accommodation funds to be allocated by the city towards affordable housing.

Since council shot down Travel Penticton’s request in August, staff will be working with the society to develop a fee for the service contract work within the 2022 budget. The fee for the service contract will be allocated for destination marketing, convention bureau and visitor services.

The tax will continue to be collected by the province, under the authority of the city’s bylaws, remitted to the city and then transferred to Travel Penticton for the society’s work.

Travel Penticton also received annual funding of $300,000 from the city during the past five-year agreement.

The increased hotel room tax is estimated to bring in an additional $250,0000 annually.

Funds collected through the MRDT are designated specifically for local tourism marketing, projects and programs to help grow revenues and jobs in tourism-centric locations in B.C.

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