A Kelowna cannabis company found itself in hot water last week over a controversial marketing strategy.
GTEC Holdings Ltd. sparked some ire during the Lift Vancouver 2020 Expo with its BLK MKT cannabis product, as its tag line was “Once you go BLK …”
The product name is in reference to the black market, which in B.C. is renowned for producing top-quality cannabis. The tag line, meanwhile, is a play on the expression “Once you go black, you never go back” in reference to sexual relations with an African American.
Canadian cannabis activist Dana Larsen, who has more than 15,000 Twitter followers, was one expo attendee who was not impressed.
“When you’re trying to get street cred by calling yourself “Black Market” and end up just being racist instead. #BLKMKT,” he wrote.
Others chimed in on social media, criticizing the company, so GTEC issues a statement in response. Even though it defended the marketing slogan, it said it will not be using the tag line any longer.
“The BLK MKT brand was conceptualized and built by three individuals, two of which were people of colour,” the statement said. “The brand was considered relevant, interesting and ‘edgy’ in that it references the legacy cannabis market. When we solicited feedback on this brand concept from our employees, friends, family and industry experts, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
“Moreover, while it should be obvious, we would highlight that this brand has absolutely nothing to do with race.”
The company statement pointed out that GTEC’s chief executive officer, Norton Singhavon, is Chinese, its chief financial officer, Kendra Blackford, is female, and its marketing head, Adil Hirji, is of East African descent.
“We ran this idea by men and women of various ethnic groups, including those of African descent, and received no negative feedback,” the statement said. “Thus, while we knew that this tagline might be viewed as ‘edgy,’ we were confident that it would not be viewed by most people in a negative manner.
“Indeed, for the most part, other than a group of individuals on Twitter, it was well received. For example, of the thousands of individuals that passed by our booth at the two-day Lift Vancouver 2020 Expo, there was only one instance of a non-(person of colour) who felt it wasn’t a proper usage.”
Demand has not caught up with supply in Kelowna’s rental housing market.
According to the latest figures released by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Kelowna’s vacancy rate climbed from 1.9% in 2017 to 2.7% last year.
It was as low as 0.2% just two years ago.
The vacancy rate in the core area is an even 3%, up from 2.1, while the rate in Rutland is 1%, from 0.6% in 2018.
While more apartments sit empty waiting for tenants, the price landlords are charging for those units is still on the rise.
The cost of renting an apartment across the city rose in every category.
The number of units available for rent is also up across the board.
Overall, there are 6,650 units for rent in the city, up more than 1,300 from the year previous.
Mayor Colin Basran believes rents should eventually come down as the vacancy rate goes up.
The report also shows a lack of larger rental units available in the city. Just 164 three-bedroom apartments are available, something city councillors have said should be a focus for apartment developers.
Of the four metropolitan areas in B.C., Kelowna has by far the highest vacancy rate. Vancouver and Abbotsford-Mission are at 1.1%, while Victoria’s rate is 1%.
Provincially, B.C.’s rate is 1.5%.
The rental vacancy rate provided by CMHC only includes apartments. The secondary market, including basement suites, carriage houses and homes for rent are not included.
Figures were not available for other cities in the Okanagan.
A pair of Okanagan communities have been named finalists for the Open for Business Awards.
The Village of Lumby and the District of Spallumcheen made the final three for the awards, which celebrate communities that have created a business-friendly environment, allowing small business to flourish.
Small Business BC will host the Open for Business Awards at the Small Business BC Awards Gala on Feb. 21, at Vancouver Convention Centre, where the winners in each division will be revealed.
Lumby is up against the District of Ucluelet and the Village of Harrison Hot Springs in the small category (fewer than 5,000 residents), while Spallumcheen will face off against the City of Colwood and the City of Dawson Creek in the medium category (5,000 to 25,000 residents).
The awards, which were launched in 2011, encompass three categories based on the population of each community. Each of the finalists selected has showcased its commitment to supporting the growth and success of the small business sector and looking for innovative solutions to drive economic development within its community.
Madison Friesen and Alivia Leibbrand brought home a silver medal from the 2020 Inter-Collegiate Business Competition (I.C.B.C.). at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., last week.
The Okanagan College School of Business students finished second in the human resources competition, which was one of eight held during the two-day event.
“My heart exploded when they called our name for second,” Friesen said in a press release. “It was such an emotional moment. All that hard work was so worth it. I couldn’t have done it without (coach and professor) Roger (Wheeler) and of course Alivia. I was so honoured to represent our amazing college.”
The duo had to complete a case study in a short period of time and then present their plan to a panel of expert and corporate executives, who picked the top three finishers.
“Madi and Liv were not familiar with each other when they were recruited, so it is remarkable how quickly they became a cohesive team,” Wheeler said. “Their support for each other, strong work ethic and determination to succeed led directly to this fantastic result. I could not be more proud of them for their impressive performance at Queen’s.”
Friesen and Leibbrand were joined at the competition by fellow students Takiya Bradshaw and Matthew Davidson, who made up the accounting team and were coached by professors Adrian Fontenla and Mary Ann Knoll.
Braeden Rahn and Justin Rantucci formed the debate team, which was coached by professor Devin Rubadeau.
Tourism Kelowna is reporting that its fall campaign got the desired results, as hotel occupancy in September, October and November increased.
September and October both had 1% jumps compared to 2018, while November improved by a whopping 3.2%.
Overall, from January to November, Kelowna’s hotel occupancy was up 2.3% to 68.1% over the previous time frame.
The tourism group’s advertising campaign included television ads, online videos, social media advertising, digital native ads, email marketing, online banner ads and online travel agency partnerships.
The television ad ran on Canadian specialty networks and in the U.S. on major broadcast stations as a public service announcement. Tourism Kelowna said nearly 12 million advertising impressions were earned.
Overall, the fall campaign delivered more than 23 million impressions.
After years of uncertainty, Penticton’s Francophone community has found its home.
B.C. Minister of Education Rob Fleming visited Ecole Entre Lacs Monday to announce the province has provided $11.5 million to the Conseil Scolaire Francophone (B.C. Francophone School Board) to purchase the building.
The board had been leasing the school from the Okanagan Skaha School District since 2017, when McNicoll Park Middle School closed.
“Now it really is yours, your school is a permanent Francophone institution,” Fleming told students and teachers during an assembly. “You are no longer tenants. You are no longer short-term lease holders. You own this building. You can develop and grow this school.”
Just fewer than 170 elementary students currently attend the Ecole Entre Lacs, while high school students attend a Francophone program at Penticton Secondary.
There are plans to phase in a secondary program at Entre Lacs, making it a full K-12 school, which will serve as much more than a school for the local Francophone community.
“There is no Francophone centre (in Penticton) short of meeting at someone’s house and having everyone come to the house,” CSF board of trustees president Marie-Pierre Lavoie said. “It’s great to have a school where the whole community can meet and do activities.”
The property sale includes the former Nkwala Middle School facility, which closed years ago due to declining enrolment. The ministry says it will be working with the CSF and City of Penticton “to decide the future of the Nkwala site so it can be of better use to the community.”
B.C.’s Francophone school system is not french immersion. For a student to attend a Francophone school, they must speak French as their first language. If coming from outside B.C., they must have received their previous education in French in Canada. Section 23 of the Charter guarantees those students a Francophone education.
Nearly 6,100 students attend 41 schools managed by the CSF, including 24 homogeneous French-language schools, throughout the province.
A plan to relocate Kitsch Wines around the corner from its current location passed its first hurdle Monday afternoon when Kelowna council approved the application.
It must still be rubber stamped by the Agricultural Land Commission, then returned to the city for development and building permits.
Several hurdles are required because the newly acquired property won’t be ready for production for about three years.
Planner Alex Kondor told council ALC regulations state at least two hectares of grapes must be grown on the property and be production-ready for the winery to be considered a farm use.
Much of the property has been transformed from cherry orchard to grapes, but the grapes won’t be ready for harvest for a few years.
“The winery would be considered non-farm use until enough grapes are planted and in production to meet ALC applications,” Kondor said. “Owners are seeking relief for up to three years until such time as they expect to have enough grapes that would be harvested and in production to be considered farm use.”
Kondor says the winery itself will be almost 10,000 square feet, which includes a crush pad, barrel storage and tasting room.
The application also asks a covenant, placed on the property as a condition of a previous ALR exclusion application, be lifted. The covenant covers a treed, sloping area of the property.
“The proposal is to remove the covenant to potentially farm portions of the covenant area and to mitigate negative impacts on the vineyard that is being proposed created by large trees on the covenant area.”
Coun. Luke Stack was skeptical the ALC would allow for the removal of the covenant.
Kelowna’s north end industrial area is in the midst of a minor makeover, one the planning department says is part of an overall market shift.
The topic arose as council was asked to approve a zoning amendment that would allow select commercial uses on a property at 760 Vaughan Ave.
Planner Terry Barton said commercial uses would include enterprises such as retail stores, business support services, offices, and liquor primary and spectator entertainment establishments.
“Change in use would allow the developer to establish an adaptive reuse of one of the warehouse buildings in support of a liquor primary establishment and spectator entertainment establishment, in this case a dinner theatre,” Barton said.
“As well the small industrial building along Vaughan Avenue would be demolished in favour of a new building that would take advantage of some of the new uses.”
Barton told council some degree of commercial is already taking place within the immediate neighbourhood, specifically at BC Tree Fruits and Sandhill Winery.
And, on the other side of Vaughan, PC Urban is proceeding with a mixed use residential, commercial and industrial development.
Barton told council planning staff would not be supportive of residential creeping further north from Clement but indicated the Vaughan proposal is indicative of some shifts in industrial areas.
“The market demand for the type of industrial that we are seeing these days is not rooted what Kelowna was 20 or 30 years ago with heavy industrial such as Crown Packaging or Western Star,” Barton said.
“That’s not the type of industrial that we are seeing. Regardless of whether these land uses are achieved, Kelowna and the future of industrial is very much mixed-use development, light industrial, quasi industrial-commercial. That’s very much where Kelowna is at.”
Barton did say the proposal council approved Monday is within what most people would consider an “industrial character.”
A Vernon entrepreneur is proving to be a ‘Hit.’
Kristi Bieber recently made the cover of Franchise Business Review magazine for her business, 30 Minute Hit.
Bieber moved to Vernon to open her own location of 30 Minute Hit in February 2015 and has been welcomed into the community.
Bieber’s business also made the list as one of North America’s best franchises.
30 Minute Hit is a women’s only, boxing/kickboxing/self-defence circuit and teaches the fundamentals of these typically male-dominated sports in a non-intimidating, welcoming, female-only environment.
Vernon Hit welcomes all skill levels and levels of fitness.
Vernon Hit features no set class times, flexible hours of operation, low and unlimited monthly membership options, a free kid’s play area and more.
For more information, click here.
Kelowna likes to think of itself as a smart city.
Now its goal is to become an intelligent city.
“As a smart city, we have been able to improve efficiencies, reduce costs and improve departmental outcomes—something we should be very proud of,” Kelowna Intelligent Cities manager Andreas Boehm said in a press release. “That said, the city and community are facing increasingly complex issues that often require creative solutions born out of collaborative problem-solving and community partnerships. This is why we are planning the move from smart to intelligent.”
Kelowna’s Intelligent City vision is to find ways to improve the lives of residents through access to online services, technological innovation and collaborative problem-solving, creating local solutions to local problems.
The city’s recent announcement that it will be implementing a closed-circuit camera registry for downtown businesses is one example of an Intelligent City program. If businesses sign up for the pilot project, RCMP will be able to access footage in a more timely manner.
Some of the other Intelligent City initiatives already underway include improving the design of city programs for users, using community participation to help solve complex projects and issues, and incorporating chatbots to enhance customer service.