Year-round farming set to start
Tracey Prediger - 10:28 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Agriplay

They should be growing strawberries near Salmon Arm by the end of December. Frost in the ground and snow won’t affect Zion Growing Solutions’ plan to set up their year-round farming business in neighbouring Tappen.

“We’ve had delays with all the goings on here,” Zion president David DenHollander said, referring to weeks of diverted focus while wildfires and smoke plagued most of the North Shuswap. “We’re just in the process of installing support systems, and our vertical growing towers are showing up in a couple of weeks.”

Zion Growing Solutions is a Salmon Arm based company that will be partnering with Agriplay out of Calgary to supply its vertical growing towers. Agriplay has already turned millions of square feet of unused office space in Calgary essentially into farms, and DenHollander is excited to bring the company’s technology to B.C.

DenHollander said they’ll be starting with strawberries. “Once we get the systems installed and it’s up and going, we should start producing fruit within 30 days,” he said.

The growing will happen on the Tappen based property that once housed Orica’s blasting cap factory. The site, which is located just off Trans-Canada Highway near Recline Ridge, sits on 160 acres and has several existing buildings.

DenHollander wants to transform that space into an “eco-park” that will not only take indoor farming to the next level but create a space for up and coming technologies like the use of thermal batteries, solar technologies and exploring water-saving solutions—all while improving local food security.

DenHollander said they’ve chosen to start with the Monterey variety of strawberry for its taste and continuous growth cycle.

“What differentiates us is we can be producing local strawberries twelve months a year,” he said.

The product will be sold under the brand name Tappen Valley Produce, and Zion has already secured shelf space with local grocers and a “major national chain.”

It’s time for some Revelry
Nicholas Johansen - 9:46 am - Biz Releases

After several years of construction, Kelowna’s newest music venue is now complete and will be opening its doors soon.

Revelry Food+Music Hub is located on Ellis Street across from the downtown library, and general manager Ali Lewis recently gave Castanet a sneak peek inside. The two-story space will function as a cafe during the day and a venue for concerts and other events during the evening.

Lewis said the venue will fill a hole in Kelowna’s music scene, which has had a number of venues close over the past several years.

“This town needs it,” she said. “There’s a lot of talent here, and there’s a lot of opportunity and a lot of reasons to come here, so having a place that has this level of sophistication and this level of ability to house music is beyond needed.

“There is a massive need for somewhere where it’s not just working in a theatre situation, it is larger, but not as big as Prospera (Place) but also not as tiny as some of the breweries and being able to fill that kind of medium-sized venue space.”

The space is expected to hold upwards of 600 people for concerts.

Revelry’s opening is a long time coming, with its development permit first coming across Kelowna city council’s desk in August 2020. While Revelry said in June that it would open this past summer, it was unable to make that happen, despite support from city council.

Not everyone in town has been as supportive, though. Last December, the strata corporation at the nearby Madison apartment building filed a petition in BC Supreme Court, seeking a stop work order on the project.

Strata president Lloyd Pederson claimed that by granting the permits for Revelry, the city did not do its required due diligence and caused “harm to 57 families for the benefit of one investor’s profit.”

A GoFundMe page raised more than $10,000 for legal fees to try and stop the Revelry project.

In formal responses filed in the spring, both Revelry and the BC government said the petition should simply be dismissed. It’s not clear where that litigation now stands, but it’s believed to be ongoing.

Revelry owner Lee Simon says he expects to officially announce an opening date next week.

Group targets ‘ghost hotels’
Cindy White - 8:55 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Pixabay

As the City of Kelowna mulls stricter rules governing Airbnbs and other short-term rentals, a new report is highlighting how they impact overall rental rates in the community.

McGill University professor David Wachsmuth, working with advocacy group Fairbnb Canada Network, looked into the influence of commercial short-term rental growth on rental costs in B.C.

He found that in the Thompson-Okanagan, the number of commercial STRs increased by 40% between 2021 and 2022, and jumped another 17.6% from June 2022 to June 2023. Commercial short-term rentals were defined as those where the entire home, condo or other unit is rented out, not just a room or a portion of a house where the homeowner lives.

Wachsmuth’s report found 10% of hosts in B.C. earn nearly 50% of the revenue, while 1,930 operators (1%) bring in more than 20% of all the revenue in the province.

At of the end of 2022 in the Thompson-Okanagan, 3.4 out of every 100 units were operated as a dedicated STR. The research suggests this translates into the average renter’s household rent climbing $34 a month over the course of 2022, or a total of $25.7 million more rent paid because of the presence of commercial short-term rentals.

“In general, what this data shows is that the more intensive commercial short-term rental use is, the higher the proportion of local rent increases and housing cost increases,” Fairbnb’s Thorben Wieditz said.

He said the Thompson-Okanagan is one of the regions that is most impacted by commercial STRs, or “ghost hotel” activity, with Vancouver Island taking the biggest hit, according to the study. “This report marks the first time we can quantify the far-reaching effects that the transformation of homes into ‘ghost hotels’ has on tenants’ rents across the province,” he said.

So, what does Fairbnb hope to accomplish with this report? Wieditz said they want the provincial government to step in regulate STRs across B.C. in a way that is helpful to local municipalities.

“We are keenly aware that there are a lot of municipalities that don’t have the resources like the big cities like Vancouver to come up with their own short-term rental registries or enforcement mechanisms,” Wieditz said. “And for that reason, I think it is important for the province to step up to create a provincewide registry where people that want to participate in this industry have to register their property, show that this property is indeed a principal residence and then share data with the province.”

He said Fairbnb isn’t opposed to home sharing, because that doesn’t removing housing from the long-term rental market, but they want a crackdown on “ghost hotels.”

“We would like to see a line drawn in the sand where investors and absentee landlords cannot just buy up and lease up housing stock and turning this into dedicated short-term rentals year-round,” he said.

The organization has been putting pressure on governments across the country to do more about the impact of STRs. Wieditz pointed to a new law in Quebec that would have Airbnb facing $100,000 fines on all unregistered listings on the platform. Individuals who offer up a fake registration number could be fined up to $50,000.

He’s hopeful the B.C. government will beef up regulations soon.

In the meantime, Kelowna city council instructed staff earlier this year to come up with stricter rules to address a number of concerns including unlicensed short-term rentals. A report with recommendations for bylaw changes is expected sometime this fall.

Tolko site concepts unveiled
Wayne Moore - Sep 22, 2023 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

The former Tolko mill site could include as many as 3,500 housing units across nearly 40 acres in Kelowna’s North End.

That’s according to the long-awaited Tolko mill redevelopment plan being presented to city council Monday. The 66-page report includes three concept plans that, if adopted by council, will go to the public for feedback.

A final draft of the plan is expected to land back on the council table later this year.

While each of the three concept plans offers unique features, they are similar in terms of housing mix.

The plan states about 3,500 units are envisioned for the site, including affordable housing options. Affordable will be defined later in the process according to the report.

About 350 low impact senior or student units will also be available.

“The Mill Site location in the north end stands out in terms of its density and height,” the report states when speaking of massing. “All three proposed concepts adopt a massing strategy that gradually reduces the building height from the southern end to the northern end, where the lake is located. This approach not only considers the existing surrounding neighbourhoods but also takes into account the tapering towards the east and west.”

Approximately 225,000 square feet of office and retail space is envisioned, with nearly one million square feet of undetermined, flexible space. Another three to four hectares of park and open space is also contemplated within the three concepts.

Each of the three concept plans include unique options for community space.

One includes a “civic wedge” described as a “year-round reflection of hydrological character.” It would include a “floodable plaza, ice rink, splash park, and dry pond that encourages locals and visitors to interact with the defining aspect of the Okanagan.”

Another option includes a harbour park, with the report saying a “great lawn is a place to be seen and to engage in the brilliance of Okanagan lifestyle with artisans, breweries, and restaurants interfacing with the great outdoors.”

A third concept includes a space called “the workshop,” which is described as a space supporting the industrial history of the site as a working waterfront. “It operates as a moorage while also providing amenities for artisan, makers, and cafes, with some outdoor gathering space,” according to the report.

“This presents a rare chance to establish an iconic mixed-use neighbourhood while fulfilling a range of community objectives for housing, transportation, waterfront amenity, employment and sustainability,” the report said.

The Tolko site plan, when eventually adopted, will connect with the city’s North End neighbourhood plan, which was presented to council earlier this summer.

Businesses honour firefighters
Glacier Media - Sep 22, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: Ravina Johal

Oliver businesses got together to honour and show their appreciation for local firefighters last weekend with a barbecue.

The Black Sage Butcher, Pappa’s Firehall Bistro, South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce, Buy-Low Foods in Oliver and Osoyoos, and Kevin’s No Frills teamed up to host local firefighters and serve them burgers, beers and live music.

Firefighters from Oliver Fire Department, Okanagan Falls, Willowbrook and Anarchist Mountain departments all came for a low-key appreciation event.

Firehall Brewery brewmaster Sid Ruhland said about the event that “we are very happy to be able to offer a show of appreciation for the local firefighters, and we were very humbled by just how gracious and appreciative they were in return. Which just goes to show that they are not firefighters for the glory and for thank you presents. It’s very obvious that for them it’s a commitment to the community.”

Rob Graham, public relations officer with the Oliver Fire Department, expressed just this sentiment, saying “we don’t do this going looking for appreciation. When businesses and companies want to do that for us just because, not because we’re looking for recognition, that touches us. It just makes us feel appreciated.”

Moments like the chamber of commerce putting together care packages are the types of things that are really appreciated, Graham said.

“We don’t respond to these calls looking to get hero recognition. We do this because we all feel a little service, a little giving back to our community. So really our minds and hearts are with being part of the fire department.”

Ravina Johal, with the Black Sage Butcher, explained that she has really come to appreciate the firefighters.

“I have lived here for five years, and the sad reality is fires are an annual occurrence now, and we very much feel the impact on our community … they’re heroes, they are keeping us safe, and I know how hard they work and the fact that many of them are volunteers,” she said. “They deserve to be recognized and celebrated for what they do for us. Some of us literally wouldn’t be here with them.”

Johal said she reached out to Ruhland asking if they were going to be doing another event for local firefighters. The Firehall had organized a similar event a few years ago, and Johal wanted to do something this year.

“It was a small way that we could recognize and celebrate the contributions of our local firefighters,” she said.

Black Sage provided all the beef and ran the barbecue station, Pappa’s Firehall Bistro provided the fries, Buy-Low Oliver/Osoyoos and No Frills provided the rest of the burger ingredients, and the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce organized care packages provided to the firefighters

The Firehall staff also put together an impromptu band to perform for the firefighters.

Side hustles prove popular
Okanagan Edge Staff - Sep 21, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: The Canadian Press

A recent survey shows people are putting in the effort to make ends meet.

Interac checked the temperature of its users and found the use of its e-Transfer option for business increased 25% from last year. The survey found more Canadians are launching side hustles in an effort to keep up with expenses—and a lot of them are enjoying it.

More than half of those surveyed (55%) said their side hustle turned out to be more fulfilling than expected, and three-quarters (76%) planned to continue to do their second job along with their primary employment.

Meanwhile, nearly two in 10 respondents (17%) were planning to turn their passion project into their career.

“Entrepreneurs have long been, and will continue to be, a driving force of Canada’s economy, yet we are hearing that almost half of those polled say they have had challenges accessing financial tools, tracking finances and generally finding the advice or information they need to start or grow their business,” Interac chief commercial officer William Keliehor said in a press release.

“We launched the Interac From Dollar One hub to help bridge this gap and provide the resources entrepreneurs are asking for from their first dollar and beyond.”

The survey also found most budding entrepreneurs feel they lack the financial confidence and knowledge necessary to successfully grow their business.

“As more Canadians transform their passion into a small business either full time or alongside their day-to-day jobs, Interac e-Transfer has grown rapidly in lock step,” Interac assistant vice-president Anurag Kar said. “Since many entrepreneurs already have the confidence of using the service as a consumer, they have quickly recognized it as an easy, efficient way to pay and be paid. Interac e-Transfer has been a payment option that eases the pain points that they face.”

Biz award finalists revealed
Chelsea Powrie - Sep 21, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce

The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce has announced finalists for its 36th annual Business Excellence Awards.

The awards aim to celebrate “outstanding achievements and recognizes the invaluable contributions of businesses and individuals to our vibrant community,” according to the organization.

After the nomination and selection process, these are the finalists in alphabetical order across 10 award categories:

Marketing & Communications sponsored by Downtown Penticton Business Improvement Association

  • DogLeg Marketing & Business Solutions
  • Graphically Hip
  • Total Restoration Service

Hospitality Excellence sponsored by Travel Penticton

  • Barley Mill Brew Pub
  • Eskala Mountain Sports
  • Penticton Speedway

Not-For-Profit Excellence sponsored by Omland Heal Chartered Accountants

  • Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team (ALERT)
  • Community Foundation of the South Okanagan
  • Downtown Penticton Business Improvement Association

Community Support Excellence sponsored by Penticton Western News

  • IGA Penticton
  • Parker’s Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram
  • Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union

Service Excellence sponsored by Kettle Valley Memorial

  • Ascend Salon
  • Okanoggin Barbers Ltd.
  • The Concorde Assisted Living Residence

Workplace Culture Excellence sponsored by South Okanagan Immigrant & Community Services

  • OneSky Community Resources
  • Penticton Art Gallery
  • South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society

New Business of the Year sponsored by Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union

  • Abandoned Rail Brewing Co.
  • The HUB on Martin
  • Wordplay Therapy Services

Young Professional of the Year sponsored by JCI Penticton & Seven Elk Shipping Inc.

  • Shayna Laird, Penticton Chiropractic & Co.
  • Paige Schulz, Travel Penticton
  • Derek Adduono, Red Bag

Business Leader of the Year sponsored by TD Canada Trust

  • Jane Long-Haggerty, Long-Haggerty Chartered Professional Accountant Inc.
  • Alexis Esseltine, Tin Whistle Brewing Co.
  • Vanessa Jahnke, PURE Gym

Business of the Year sponsored by Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen

  • Blaze King
  • Long-Haggerty Chartered Professional Accountant Inc.
  • Secure-Rite Mobile Storage

More than 120 nominations were submitted in less than a month. An awards gala where the winners will be announced will be held on Oct. 14 at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, with an old-Hollywood theme of “Lights, Camera, Excellence.”

Early-bird pricing is available until Sept. 25. More information and registration can be found online here.

The awards are presented by Total Restoration.

Tree Fruits property for sale
Wayne Moore - Sep 21, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: HM Commercial Realty

BC Tree Fruits is looking to sell off more of its Kelowna assets.

The tree fruits co-operative recently listed an assembly of three lots on Sexsmith Road just off Highway 97.

The 18.41 acres are listed at $39 million.

This is at least the third piece of property BC Tree Fruits has listed for sale over the past three years.

It sold its Water Street offices in December 2020 for $7.5 million, then unloaded its former packinghouse, adjacent to the former Tolko mill, in December 2021 to Mission Group for $23.75 million.

The latest property listed includes 148,000 square feet of controlled atmospheres or cold storage, and office space.

As a condition of any sale, BC Tree Fruits said it would need to occupy a portion of the facility for up to two years.

“3335 and 3345 Sexsmith Road is a highly valuable assembly in terms of the size of the building, but mostly the land. It’s located in the Reid’s Corner industrial area, with access off Sexsmith, which is proposed for widening from two lanes to four,” the selling information states.

“Easy access for full size tractor trailers off Highway 97N. The large format building (circa 1982) is oriented on a zero setback along the NW property line which makes for an extremely high-efficient use of the remaining land.

“It also abuts the Okanagan Rail Trail, a popular recreational corridor. Using typical industrial site coverages, we would estimate there to be approximately 3-4 acres of surplus land.”

Local support push this weekend
Cindy White - Sep 21, 2023 - Biz Releases

“Buy local or bye bye local.” It’s not just a fun play on words. It’s an all too stark reality for many small businesses in Kelowna.

They’re really struggling after wildfires brought an abrupt end to a summer tourist season that was already slower than anticipated.

“We were in Kelowna about two weeks before the fires and we were hearing that business was off maybe 20 per cent from where it was last year,” said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association. “Then we saw the fires, and then there was no tourism.”

He called it “disastrous,” saying some restaurants reported no sales on some days. “You don’t usually hear that. Usually you have something.

“But a couple restaurants said, ‘You know what? I was open today, and I had no sales whatsoever.’”

Downtown Kelowna Association is trying to bolster struggling businesses by hosting Small Shop Weekend Friday through Sunday, and its posters include the “buy local or bye bye local” slogan.

“You talk to some of the businesses who are trying to gauge where their sales are this year, and they’re still comparing back to 2019 because the last three summers have just been disruptive,” DKA executive director Mark Burley said.

He’s urging the people of Kelowna to show their support not just this weekend for what he says is the backbone of any city—small business.

Bernard Avenue will also be closed to vehicle traffic Saturday for the rescheduled DKA Show N Shine that had to be postponed because of the wildfire emergency last month. The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and all the details can be found here.

Road closures and parking restrictions along sections of Bernard Avenue, Abbott Street, Mill Street and Pandosy Street go into effect on Friday, Sept. 22 to accommodate Show N Shine. Overnight parking is not permitted in the 200, 300, 400 and 500 blocks of Bernard; in the 1500 block of Abbott Street; on Mill Street (alongside Kelly O’Bryan’s); or along the 1400 and 1500 blocks of Pandosy. All vehicles must be removed from those areas by 5:30 a.m. on Saturday.

However, on other downtown streets that are not part of the closure, the first two hours of on-street parking will be free this Saturday (time limits and other restrictions apply). On-street parking is free on Sundays, and parking is also free in all three city-owned, downtown Kelowna parkades—Chapman, Memorial and Library—every weekend.

You can see the full list of businesses participating on Small Shop Weekend here.

West Kelowna Fire hiring
Okanagan Edge Staff - Sep 20, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: West Kelowna Fire Rescue

If you saw the impressive work West Kelowna Fire Rescue workers did during the last month and wanted to join in on the fight, you now have a chance to do so.

West Kelowna Fire Rescue is hiring people to become paid, on-call firefighters and will be holding an information session next week for those who are interested.

On-call firefighters provide emergency and medical response, fire protection and rescue services across West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation.

The information session will be held Wednesday, Sept. 27, at Glenrosa Fire Hall, which is located at 3399 Gates Rd. The doors will open at 6 p.m., and the presentation will begin at 6:30.

More information about the program can be found here.

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