Fashion weekend coming in July
Okanagan Edge Staff - 11:22 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed
Erikka Moojelsky

The Central Okanagan’s fashion industry will be front and centre next month.

AesthetiKs Lab will host Kelowna Fashion Week(end) over three days in mid-July, showcasing innovative designs from both emerging and established designers.

“We are thrilled to bring this extraordinary fashion event to life,” AesthetiKs Lab founder Erikka Moojelsky said in a press release. “This show is a celebration of art, culture and the vibrant spirit of our community. We can’t wait to see the creativity that our designers will bring to the runway.”

Events and shows will take place within the Kelowna Cultural District downtown from July 12-14, with runway shows each afternoon. There will also be daily workshops, designer pop-ups, fashion shows, nightly concerts, Kelowna’s largest clothing swap and a sustainability conference on Saturday, July 13.

The weekend will feature a blend of new fashion, upcycled and recycled fabrics and artistic expression.

More information about Kelowna Fashion Week(end) can be found on its website here. Tickets are available here.

Council advocates for forestry
Kristen Holliday - 10:34 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Kamloops This Week

Kamloops council has agreed to send the province’s minister of forests a letter advocating for measures that pulp mill representatives say would increase fibre supply while cleaning up forest fuels and preventing fires.

Thomas Hoffman, fibre manager for Kruger Kamloops Pulp L.P., told council at its Tuesday meeting the mill brought value to nearly 1.4 million cubic metres of fire-affected wood in 2023.

“There’s no other pulp mill in the province that accomplished that,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said the industry is looking for the province to expedite timber salvaging permits, ensure full access to allowable annual cut for licensees and develop “an aggressive forest fuel risk reduction program” to mitigate wildfire damage.

He said within 200 kilometres of Kamloops sit four million cubic metres of fire-affected fibre that hasn’t been scheduled for harvest.

Coun. Margot Middleton said she sees “mountains of slash” that also appear to be left in some areas.

“As we see the fire-affected wood potentially going to waste, as they’re not harvesting it in a timely fashion, what about the existing slash and burn piles that are evident all over logged areas? … How much of that waste would still be good for fibre if it were not just put in a burn pile?” Middleton asked.

Hoffman said the mill is working hard with its suppliers to address the issue, adding he’d like to see more incentives for companies to take out the brush.

Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson said he found some time last year to speak with Forests Minister Bruce Ralston about “getting burned wood out of the bush.”

“He assured me that they had a plan,” Hamer-Jackson said. “It wasn’t a real clear plan, but I wonder if it would benefit if we sent another letter to Minister Ralston for you?”

Hoffman said the mill has regular dialogue with a couple of provincial representatives, but told council he would appreciate continued advocacy.

“Every opportunity, I won’t prescribe to council, because you are in audiences that I’m not part of, but every opportunity is what I’m asking for your consideration,” Hoffman said. “Whether you find yourself in front of the minister of forests or whether you find yourself in front of the premier, you’ve got the key messages.”

Hamer-Jackson put forward a motion to send a “followup” letter to Ralston.

“Like I said, he did say they had a plan to get that wood, the burned timber, out of the bush,” he said.

The motion was carried unanimously by council.

Young entrepreneurs shine
Rob Gibson - 8:54 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed
The winning team of Yuvraj Dosanjh, Griffin Hendry and Tanav Goel.

A group of young Kelowna entrepreneurs made their best pitches at last week’s Innovation Generation Challenge finale.

The top eight secondary school teams pitched their business ideas to local mentors and judges at the 30th annual iGen finale.

“Central Okanagan Public Schools congratulates all the participants in the 31st annual Innovation Generation (iGen) Challenge for demonstrating collaboration, creativity and innovation in their business plans and pitches,” SD23 superintendent Kevin Kaardal said in a press release.

The Rutland Secondary School team of Yuvraj Dosanjh, Griffin Hendry and Tanav Goel won $3,500 with its Seraphic Stationery project, while the Mount Boucherie squad of Ty Bunn and Caisen Dodd finished second for its Pro Performance submission and earned $2,500. Okanagan Mission Secondary’s Brayden Jarrard placed third, earning $1,500 for iTutor Friends, and George Elliot Secondary’s Zoe Wiens and Lauren Munro won the best market research award and $900 for their Amiga project.

The other finalists each earned $400. They are Rutland Secondary’s Hayden Kruggel and Alex Reister for Deskables, George Elliot’s Bryn Nelson for Glistening Gifts, Mount Boucherie’s Taia Botha for Illumi, and OKM’s Annabelle Lee and Sydney Blackmore for Melody Murals.

The pitches were judged by Kaardal, Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission manager Krista Mallory and Kelowna-Mission MLA Renee Merrifield.

The iGen challenge connects young entrepreneurs with local entrepreneurs, business partners and community organizations to discover the Central Okanagan’s next generation of entrepreneurial gurus.

“The district would also like to thank the many educators who mentored the students and the community partners whose time and donations help young entrepreneurs continue their business journey,” Kardaal said.

Program offers tech upgrades
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jun 14, 2024 - Biz Releases

Photo: Marvin Meyer, Unsplash

Prospera Credit Union and Accelerate Okanagan are teaming up once again to support small businesses a technical boost.

The two organizations are part of the third annual Level Up Local technology grants, which will be given to businesses to improve their digital tools and strategies.

“Investing in local businesses fuels innovation, growth and strengthens our local communities across the Okanagan,” Prospera Credit Union business banking Okanagan regional director Greg Wyma said in a press release.

“With the continued commitment of our business banking experts, we look forward to further supporting these businesses with their goals and banking needs.”

Those who receive the grants will also have access to mentorship opportunities through Accelerate Okanagan and Prospera’s business expert team.

The program helped more than 50 businesses during its first two years of existence. Those looking to apply must meet with an Accelerate Okanagan advisor before they can officially apply for the grant.

More information about Level Up Local can be found here.

Merritt plants shuts down
Glacier Media - Jun 14, 2024 - Biz Releases

Photo: Merritt Herald

Aspen Planers has temporarily shuttered its Merritt operations due to B.C.’s “collapsing” forestry industry, putting about 100 people out of work.

Due to what AP Group executive vice-president Bruce Rose calls “market realities,” Aspen Planers’ Merritt mill has been offline for more than a month.

Prior to the closure, Aspen ran on a “only a single shift daily basis for much of 2023 and 2024,” Rose said.

“Simply put, the whole forest industry in B.C., it’s not an exaggeration, it’s collapsing and it’s just in a terrible state,” Rose said. “You can see the negative consequences are all over the place in the province. Just over the last couple years, forestry jobs have been lost by the thousands.”

According to Rose, the core problem “is that British Columbia is now the highest cost forest products manufacturing in North America.”

“It’s very difficult in forestry to get things done in B.C.,” Rose said. “You’ve got time delay costs, the log affordability costs here, and the lack of government timber that’s put up for auction is making it very difficult.”

Rose said he does not know when Aspen Planers will open again.

“The whole current policy framework that we have, it just doesn’t reflect any market realities of the current markets we’re in,” Rose said. “There’s going to have to be some changes either in the cost structure or in the lumber market side in terms of pricing before we’re in a position to return to local production.”

Osoyoos project advances
Sarah Crookall - Jun 14, 2024 - Biz Releases

Photo: Town of Osyoos

The Town of Osoyoos has approved a developer’s request to increase maximum height allowance for a five-storey apartment across from Osoyoos Elementary School.

During a council meeting Tuesday and after other previous proposed height rejections, the developer returned to town hall seeking an increase from 13 to 14.48 metres at 6828 89th Street.

Earlier in May, the developer applied for a height increase on the 40-unit building from 13 metres to 15.8 metres. That request was denied by council, which argued that views of surrounding properties would be obstructed and currently town fire resources are unable to service taller buildings.

But now, the proposed height aligns with the town’s own future building guidelines for developments in medium density residential zones, at 15 metres.

Town staff looked for direction from the province regarding future small-scale multi-unit housing requirements, which recommend not considering “how projects may impact the character of existing low density residential neighbourhoods (i.e., via shadowing, access to sunlight, views, outdoor privacy, etc.),” according to the report.

The idea at the heart of B.C.’s recommendation is to generate higher density housing, faster.

Under the latest rules, B.C. municipalities must update relevant bylaws to accommodate small-scale, multi-unit housing requirements by June 30.

“In this regard, the proposed variance would be consistent with the new height allowances in the medium density residential zone, if the amendments are adopted as is,” reads a report by town planner Shannon Duong.

During the council meeting, Coun. Myers Bennett raised concerns about incidental cost.

“I still have a problem of committing a new council four years from now to spend $2.2 million on an aerial firetruck.”

Osoyoos’ fire chief addressed such concerns related to limited fire resources to tackle fires on buildings that are five storeys or taller. He said there are already three existing buildings in the community that exceed the station’s capacity in terms of height.

Mayor Sue McKortoff noted that aerial fire equipment is proposed for the Town of Osoyoos’ 2028 budget.

Coun. Johnny Cheong said he visited the site this week to see how the apartment would impact the surrounding area.

“Unless my map is wrong, we would still have about a meter shy to two meters of clearance before views would be impacted. I just want to be clear with that: It seems like there shouldn’t be an impact. Potentially, you may not see a school field, but in terms of the views of a lake, there shouldn’t be.”

Since the apartment building would be in a school zone, Cheong added the town has considered reducing speed from 50 km/hr to 30 km/hr in residential zones.

According to Duong’s report, the developer has said the 11.4% height increase is needed for van lift accessible parking space in the underground lot, nine feet of headroom for residents and because construction is structurally unable to excavate further.

New radio station closer
Chelsey Mutter - Jun 14, 2024 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Vernonites are getting close to having one more radio station in the city.

The Vernon Community Radio Society says it’s nearing its $25,000 goal to Power the Tower and begin broadcasting across Greater Vernon.

“We have been overwhelmed with the support we have seen from the Vernon Community since we started this campaign,” the community station’s Marv Machura said. “We are so near our goal, we can taste it.”

Machura will be the radio host and director of the community station 97.9 Valley FM. He said the society has launched an online auction to get the last bit of funds required to purchase, install and maintain a 600-watt radio transmitter.

Auction items include sailing lessons from the North Okanagan Sailing Club, a wine and charcuterie board at Black Hills Winery, an antique table, bottles of wine and more. Bids are open until June 23, and Machura said donations of auction items are still being accepted.

Marchura said the society has seen growth since it launched its online streaming last year at www.valleyfm.ca.

“People are loving tuning in online to our programs and diverse musical programming,” Marchura said. “But it’s only the beginning … just wait until we start broadcasting on air.”

Valley FM would be Vernon’s third radio station. Machura said there are many community groups, businesses and individuals wanting to be a part of the community radio station.

“Radio is vital and real-time—and local. We want to be the station that everyone can turn to hear the heartbeat of our community with music, talk, sports, arts, et cetera,” he said.

Kelowna farm smooths operations
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jun 13, 2024 - Biz Releases

Image: Google

Kelowna’s Sandhar Farms is one of several B.C. agriculture businesses that has taken advantage of the B.C. On-Farm Technology Adoption Program, all in an effort to strengthen the competitiveness, innovation and resilience of Canada’s agriculture, agrifood and agriculture-based products sector.

Sandhar Farms used its $88,000 in funding to purchase a fruit-picking platform for its orchard, located on Swainson Road. This technology, rarely seen in the province’s agricultural sector, is setting a new standard for efficiency and safety. By lifting workers to the height of the fruit, it eliminates the need for ladders, significantly enhancing safety and working conditions.

Additionally, it reduces damage to the fruit as apples are placed gently in the bin. Beyond the harvest, it becomes an invaluable year-round asset.

“Our participation in the B.C. On-Farm Technology Adoption Program has been instrumental in propelling Sandhar Farms to leading the way into a new era of agricultural innovation,” owner Davinder Sandhar said in a press release. “By embracing cutting-edge technologies through this program, such as the picking platform, we’ve experienced the profound benefits it brings, revolutionizing our operation.

“By enhancing efficiency and safety during use, the program has not only transformed our practices, but also positioned us for sustained success in British Columbia’s agriculture sector.”

The B.C. On-Farm Technology Adoption Program is part of the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3.5-billion investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments.

More patrols for industrial area
Luc Rempel - Jun 13, 2024 - Biz Releases

Photo: Luc Rempel

Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison said police will step up patrols in a local industrial area after a man wrote to council claiming his business had been burgled five times in the last two months.

Salmon Arm Ready Mix owner Murray LaTosky wrote to council to request “stronger, sterner measures” after the break-ins. Council discussed Latosky’s letter at its meeting on June 10.

LaTosky said RCMP told him there had been a lot of criminal activity near his business.

“When hearing such information it begs the question: Where is the policing if it is such a problem?” LaTosky said in the letter.

“Neighbouring businesses have also been targeted, with major thefts taking place—of which we are all asking, where are the police?”

Coun. Kevin Flynn asked for LaTosky’s letter to be referred to the Salmon Arm RCMP detachment’s staff sergeant.

“I know they do focus on some higher issue areas, and it seems like this is becoming a higher issue area,” Flynn said. “And again, I will take this opportunity to remind people that we do have a full complement of RCMP right now based on the budget that we’ve set. It’s not like we can just hire two more tomorrow.

“I do think our RCMP are doing as good a job as they can in the circumstances, but a little extra attention to this location would be great.”

Mayor Alan Harrison said he had spoken to the business owner personally and had already forwarded the letter to the staff sergeant. He said the staff sergeant agreed to increase patrols in the area, particularly in the evenings.

“I did say to him that his concern around stronger, sterner measures, as far as enforcement and that kind of thing, is actually provincial legislation, federal legislation, and that it’s not in the the hands of the RCMP, of course,” Harrison said.

“I directed him to where he could give input if he wished.”

Relief in sight for renters?
Cindy White - Jun 13, 2024 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

A new rent calculator tool designed by CBC News brings into stark focus just how unaffordable it is in Kelowna.

Kelowna was the second worst Canadian metropolitan area in both percentage and the number of vacant or potentially vacant ‘affordable’ two-bedroom units. Toronto was worst in percentage, while Peterborough had the lowest count, but it was only three units fewer than Kelowna. CBC used data from Canada Mortgage and Housing compared to housing needs and income.

The findings come as no surprise to Kelowna’s housing policy and programs manager.

Rental market tight for several years

“I think there are some questions about the accuracy of their methods whether I think it might tell a really fair story, but overall I think we know that the rental market has been tight in Kelowna for a number of years in a row,” James Moore said.

Moore said the target health rental vacancy rate is between 3% and 5%, and last year it was only 1%. He points the finger at construction of purpose-built rental housing lagging behind growth for several years, not just in the Central Okanagan, but across the country.

The City of Kelowna has been working to change that, approving several new apartment and condo projects aimed at renters and people on lower incomes. Moore is starting to see the pressure easing.

“The stuff that is being built over the past five, six, seven years is just starting to hit the market now,” he said. “I think, luckily for us, if you were to look at a bright spot in Kelowna’s housing system in the next couple of years, it’s going to be rental.”

Kelowna market is reacting

Those projects include ones on Lakeshore Road near Lequime Road, several in Rutland and hundreds of units being built right across from Orchard Park at Springfield Road and Benvoulin Road.

“We have a huge amount of rental housing—purpose built rental housing—coming on line in the coming months and years. It’s hard to walk around this community and not see new purpose-built rental housing under construction,” Moore said.

He pointed out it takes time for a housing system to react, but Kelowna is reacting. “Signs of relief are already beginning to be seen in 2024, and I think we will see that pick up over the next six months and beyond.”

While the city is doing what it can to boost supply, finding solutions to the issue of wages versus cost of living is a longer-term challenge.

“It comes from a history of an extremely in-demand housing market, where lots and lots of folks want to move here and live here and the supply hasn’t always been able to keep up. And so, the offering for folks are awfully expensive compared to wages.

“Narrowing that gap will take a long time, but that’s why it’s really important that yes, supply certainly slows the pace at which rent increases. If we can keep a healthy vacancy rate, then as wages increase that gap can slowly close.”

Is there a danger of over-building?

Moore does not think all the new rental units being built in the city will flood the market. He said the city’s perspective is that more supply is better for citizens, but he added there will be a point when developers might apply the brakes.

“When the market sees that the rents they can attain are not going to cover the costs of building a project or the prices that they can sell for aren’t going to cover their costs building a project it will naturally slow down,” he said.

The City of Kelowna is not just focused on helping those on low incomes. It recently launched a Middle Income Housing Partnership.

“That has already launched, but we will be kicking off our first couple of projects with that new initiative in the coming weeks,” he said.

Moore said they will also be unveiling an updated housing action plan in the next few months.

As for tracking vacancy rates, instead of relying on annual CMHC data, the city is designing its own system that will offer a quarterly snapshot of what’s happening in Kelowna’s rental market. That new data should be available in about a month.

The latest analysis by Castanet found that rents for two-bedroom units in the Central Okanagan fell in April for the first time in three months. However, the rent for one-bedroom units continued to climb.

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