New kiosks boost tourism
Okanagan Edge Staff - 4:30 pm - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

A new digital visitor information platform created by a local tech startup has been used by more than 7,500 people since it launched a month ago.

The platform is called VIKE (pronounced VICK-ee), which is an acronym for Visitor Information Kiosk Experience. Touch Tourism, the local company that created the technology, credits the owners, managers and staff at local venues who installed the kiosks at their establishments for the strong start.

VIKE allows Kelowna visitors to easily search for the area’s top tourist destinations and experiences. The kiosks have been installed at hotels, visitor information centres, museums and art galleries.

“Being a local business owner that relies on the tourism dollar, I genuinely understand how important it is to determine what my target market is doing, and they’re doing digital,” Touch Tourism’s primary investor and local business owner, Luke Weller, said in a press release.

Cannabis facility on target
Okanagan Edge Staff - 2:42 pm - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

True Leaf Medicine International’s large expansion project is right on schedule.

The Vernon-based, plant-forward wellness company for people and their pets announced Wednesday that its new cannabis cultivation and production facility in Lumby, which will be known as True Leaf Campus, is still on target to be completed this fall.

The project features a two-storey, 9,000 square-foot facility that will house the initial grow area, laboratory services, whole-plant extraction and the production of therapeutic cannabis products. There will also be a 16,000 square-foot wing for cannabis cultivation.

When it’s all complete, the buildings will be the hub for the development of the company’s medicinal cannabis products.

True Leaf also announced Wednesday that Dr. Chris Spooner has resigned as a member of True Leaf’s board of directors to concentrate on his role as the company’s chief scientific officer (CSO).

Future neighbours to meet
Okanagan Edge Staff - 10:59 am - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

They won’t actually live next to one another for another few years, but the residents of ONE Water Street are getting together this week for a meet and greet.

ONE Water Street’s developers will host a Happy Hour event on Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. at its presentation centre on Manhattan Drive.

The goal of the gathering, which the company is calling a “kickoff community-building activity,” is to get future neighbours on a first-name basis with one another. It will also give prospective buyers a chance to get a close look at the display homes.

“For many of the downsizers who are buying here to retire in the Okanagan, they’re starting a whole new phase of their lives,” North American Development Group managing partner Henry Bereznicki said in a press release. “We’re excited to be part of their dream by creating a whole new downtown community. Their lifestyle will include enjoying lake views from their oversized balconies, nearby shopping, entertainment, dining and of course Okanagan Lake is walking distance away.

“It’s clear why ONE Water Street is seen as Kelowna’s only true urban, lake-view high-rise development and has become Kelowna’s best-seller.”

DKA head brings passion
Kirk Penton - 9:53 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Downtown Kelowna Association’s new president will do what he can to curb the homelessness, addiction and crime that is prevalent in the city’s core.

Yarden Gershony, a lawyer at Rush Ihas Hardwick LLP, recently kicked off his two-year term as the association’s president, and he said those issues are the biggest problem facing downtown businesses.

“It’s easily the overriding issue for downtown right now,” Gershony said.

Gershony has lived in Kelowna and worked downtown since 2013, when he moved his family to the Okanagan from Vancouver. He joined DKA’s board of directors a few years ago, and now he’s the point man.

“I really do love the downtown, and I want to see it succeed,” he said. “I do think it’s the heart of Kelowna, so to the extent that I can have some kind of influence on the trajectory of downtown and to help it grow, that’s a very cool opportunity to have.”

Some businesses have moved out of downtown, no doubt in part because of the homeless and drug problems that are plaguing certain areas. Others are thinking about doing the same.

Gershony admitted there’s only so much he can do as the DKA head, so his goal to fight homelessness, addiction and crime in the downtown core is to get the key players together as often as possible. Those groups include the City of Kelowna, RCMP, B.C. Housing and Interior Health.

“I see those are the big four entities that need to take action in order to help alleviate the problems,” Gershony said. “I see my role as being an advocate for the downtown businesses to be at the table with those entities and attempt to steer them toward a solution that is in line with the businesses’ interests.”

Gershony, who grew up in Vernon, is proud of the work the “clean team” and the “downtown on-call team” do without much fanfare. They are DKA-sponsored entities that do the work on the front lines.

“They do an amazing job,” Gershony said. “The downtown on-call team, the guys in the red shirts, they know the homeless and the addicted population by name and developed good relationships with them over time. And they alleviate a lot of stress and difficulty from the RCMP and the bylaw officers, because usually the downtown on-call team can reason with these people who are sleeping in alcoves when these businesses open in the mornings, and they move on without a fight or a struggle.

“That adds a lot of value to the downtown businesses and also the clean team. When homeless people leave a mess, they will come along and clean it up. A lot of times, business owners and property owners don’t even know that those folks, the red shirts and the blue folks, are part of the DKA.”

Gershony won’t focus on only the negative during his term. Just as important to him is to grow the downtown’s vibrancy, attract new businesses and make it a destination for visitors.

Skaha beach business begins
Chelsea Powrie - 8:28 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Chelsea Powrie

A first-of-its-kind business for Penticton beaches has opened on the shores of Skaha Lake, with the aim of making lazy days on the sand even more comfortable.

Local businessman Braden Baker and his father, who used to own a bike rental shop where Loco Landing is now, have wanted to start a business renting beach chairs and umbrellas at Skaha for years.

“We finally decided to go ahead with it. I have a bunch of nephews and so we started this up thinking we could give them a summer job,” Baker said.

Beach Bums Chair Rentals was born, and it opened in early July. Luckily for some local high school kids, the nephews decided to stay in Alberta for the summer, so the shop is now a summer job for some local grade 12 students.

“This was more just as sort of a fun project to see if it would work. We’ve seen it done elsewhere,” Baker said.

Baker added that they are the only place on Skaha offering these rentals, which go for $15 a day for a chair and $10 for an umbrella, or two chairs and an umbrella for $35. And everything is half price after 3 p.m.

Beach Bums operates 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and can be found on the beach by the volleyball nets.

Foundation donates Osoyoos land
Colin Dacre - 7:32 am - Biz Releases

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A little over 2.5 acres of undeveloped land near Cottonwood Park in Osoyoos has been donated to the municipality.

The Robert L. Conconi Foundation acquired the two empty lots adjacent to the Palms by the Lake condominiums through foreclosure on the original developer.

The two parcels at 6010 Maple Dr. have now been donated to the Town of Osoyoos and discussions are underway to subdivide the property from the first phase of the Palms development, to which the lots are tied by strata.

The Robert L. Conconi Foundation funds initiatives in health care, poverty and economic security, and education.

“The Town is thankful for the generous donation which enables the opportunity to further the goals of the Conconi Foundation and address community needs through the planned use of the land,” the municipality said in a news release.

The news release said town council has committed to a public engagement process making any decisions about the land.

Wine centre visitors plummet
Colton Davies - 6:42 am - Biz Releases

Business at the non-profit B.C. VQA Wine Information Centre in Penticton has been collateral damage to a strike taking place next door at Cascades Casino.

The info centre shares a parking lot with the casino, where unionized workers have been on strike for nearly three weeks.

Staff says business is down 20 to 25 per cent compared to usual for this time of year.

“This is our busy season. This is what we gear up for every year. It’s kind of an important time for us,” BCVQA wine expert Kayla Sahara says.

“Our staff hours have been shorter, and some of our part-timers have lost their shifts because it’s just not busy enough to have them on board.”

The wine centre sells and promotes VQA wines made in B.C., and as a non-profit facility all retail profits go back into the community. While the centre provides scholarships and bursaries each year, it also donated more than $300,000 in 2014 to a new wine education program at Okanagan College.

“We’re actually the only store like this in all of (B.C.),” Sahara says. “We’re an information, education centre for our locals and our tourism industry about all of these different B.C. wines.

“We hope people know and tell their friends that we are open, and we’re geared up. We have more wines than we ever have, we have tastings on the weekend.”

Mediation between Gateway Casinos and the BC Government Employees Union, which represents the workers on strike, is expected to resume Friday, which will begin a fourth week of strike action.

In the meantime, Sahara reminds that the centre isn’t associated with the strike in any way, and merely shares the same building and parking lot.

“Where they are striking, in front of the roundabout, it does look like to the customer they’re crossing a picket line to come into our store, but you’re not crossing a picket line to come in here.”

Wine party on the Bench
Chelsea Powrie - Jul 17 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Tickets are now on sale for one of the biggest bashes on the Bench, the annual Naramata Bench Wineries Association Tailgate Party to celebrate the end of the harvest.

On Sept. 8, the 28 member wineries of the association and attendees will party like it’s 1909, with the theme of “Bootleg Bash” offering a throwback to the founding of Naramata after the turn of last century.

There will be food, wine, music and dancing, and prizes for those wearing especially good period hats.

Wineries will circle their trucks around the historic Naramata Heritage Inn, and chefs from Naramata restaurants will cook up tasty bites.

Tickets are $125 and restricted to those 19 and over. The association says the event sells out every year, so it’s best not to wait.

Click here for more information or to buy tickets.

MMA returns to Penticton
Colton Davies - Jul 17 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

A loaded mixed martial arts fight card which includes UFC veterans, prospects and local pro fighters is coming to the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre this weekend.

The Diablo Fight Series, presented by Xcessive Force Fighting Championship, takes place Saturday, marking the first MMA event held in Penticton in five years.

Darren Cliffe, president of Xcessive Force, said this will be the first time the company has brought an event to the Okanagan, and notes there’s a “definite local flavour” on the fight card.

“We’ve put together an impressive card featuring the best of the best in professional and amateur MMA,” Cliffe said.

Former UFC fighters Matt Dwyer and Dominique Steele will fight for the Xcessive Force Middleweight title as the main event.

Dwyer is from Kelowna, and Cliffe notes “it’s the first time he’ll be fighting in the Okanagan, so come out and support him.”

Other Okanagan-base fighters on the card include Grayson Wells, Damian Johnston, Steve MacDonald, Terrence Chan, Cleveland Bentley, Blake Sigvaldason and Justin Doege.

Tickets for the event are $55 and can be purchased at Cliffe said there will also be a remote box office set up at the PTCC entrance on Saturday, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Cliffe started Xcessive Force five years ago in Grande Prairie, and he said it’s now rated the second-best MMA promotion in Canada, “showcasing western Canadian fighters as they pursue their UFC dreams.”

More information on The Diablo Fight Series can be found here.

City council talks Airbnb
Kirk Penton - Jul 17 - Biz Releases

Image: Airbnb
Summerland carriage house

The cost of a business licence could be the most heated debate as the City of Kelowna creates short-term rental regulations over the next few months.

City council passed the planning department’s short-term rental regulatory direction during Monday’s meeting, but councillors had a few questions about how much residents might have to pay to list their properties on websites like Airbnb or VRBO.

“What would be perfect in a utopian world is that if you rented out your residence, condo or whatever it is, for 100 days out of the year, then you should pay a commercial rate based on those 100 days,” Coun. Brad Sieben said. “That’s something that makes it more fair with what other short-term accommodation providers have to pay.”

However, Kelowna’s community planning supervisor, Laura Bentley, indicated the licence’s cost would likely be more in line with cost recovery. Coun. Ryan Donn doesn’t want it to be too much, because it might cause people to continue renting out space illegally.

“If you put the price too high, then people don’t sign up,” Donn said. “The goal is to keep it as accessible as possible, so let’s get them on board. Let’s get them signed up and regulated.

“The first goal has to be to shift everybody from operating illegally, which is happening, to legally. Keeping that price low is going to encourage that shift.”

Another issue up for debate, which will potentially affect the licence cost, is how much enforcement should occur.

“I would encourage that third-party person to help manage this from a regulatory perspective,” Coun. Gail Given said. “From a political side, any of the communities that have engaged in third-party (regulation) are far more successful at getting compliance, getting people to be paying their fair share.

“If they’re going to run a business, then they need to operate on the same level as those who have invested a lot of money into businesses in our community. It’s not just the easy way to earn a couple bucks and get rid of a long-term tenant. You’re going to have to have a cost involved as well.”

Council members also appeared to buy into the planning department’s recommendation that only primary residences be eligible to be rented out. Banning the renting of secondary suites or carriage houses will prevent property owners from turning long-term rental space into short-term spots, which could have a negative impact on Kelowna’s 0.2 per cent vacancy rate.

Installing regulations should decrease the city’s number of short-term rentals, which Bentley said leads to higher rent, higher house prices and lower vacancy rates. Bentley will now meet with stakeholders about the issue and then return with specific regulation proposals.

“We know that not everyone will be happy on either side, and so far what we’ve found is good middle ground,” Mayor Colin Basran said. “So I’m really happy with what’s being proposed.”

The province on Oct. 1 will begin collecting a three per cent “hotel tax” on Airbnb rentals.

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