Nation’s capital now has Flair
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jun 11, 2021 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Flair Airlines began flying out of Ottawa on Friday and will soon be offering flights to eight Canadian cities, including Kelowna.

The airline, which was incorporated in Kelowna but is now based out of Edmonton, announced earlier this year it would have service between Kelowna and Ottawa. Those routes will start on Aug. 4.

“We are delighted to start operations at our newest base in Ottawa,” Flair chief commercial officer Garth Lund said in a press release. “Just in time for summer, we are bringing affordable travel options with one way fares as low as $49 on several routes.

“By August, we will have two aircraft based in Ottawa and provide non-stop, low fares to eight cities while creating more than 70 jobs in the community.”

Flair, which flies out of 19 Canadian cities, recently purchased 13 new Boeling 737 MAX 8 aircraft, and the first one flew for the airline on Thursday.

Flights between Ottawa and Kelowna will be available for as low as $59.

Centre to produce computer techs
Madison Erhardt - Jun 11, 2021 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

The provincial government is providing funding for eight eligible British Columbians to get skills training to prepare them for jobs as computer service technicians in the Okanagan.

“As B.C. moves forward into economic recovery, we’re going to see a greater demand for skilled computer service technicians around the province,” said Nicholas Simons, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

“Graduates of this new project will be well prepared to find and keep good-paying jobs in the computer service industry.”

Participant recruitment is focused on Indigenous individuals, immigrants, persons with multiple barriers to employment, youth, persons with a disability and survivors of violence and/or abuse.

The province is providing more than $140,000 to the Canadian Vocational Training Centre in Kelowna to deliver skills and certification courses in its computer service technician program.

“While the demand for IT professionals remains high, we have also been seeing a significant increase in IT technician workloads, especially throughout the past year during the pandemic,” Canadian Vocational Training Centre president Cal Purcell said.

“This program ensures that there will be ready, qualified workers to meet this demand.”

Participants will receive 23 weeks of occupational and employability skills training, including Microsoft software applications, IT security, PC troubleshooting and more. They will also receive four weeks of on-the-job work experience and two weeks of followup support to assist in their job search.

For more information, contact your local WorkBC centre.

Wild Ginger can’t be tamed
Chelsea Powrie - Jun 11, 2021 - Biz Releases

Photo: Casey Richardson

After more than a year’s delay due to the pandemic, Penticton’s newest Asian restaurant is up and running on Main Street.

Wild Ginger is located at the spot that previously housed the historic Elite Restaurant in the 300 block of Main Street. The spot changed hands in November 2018, briefly becoming “Block 300 Steakhouse,” before that folded in early 2020.

The new owner, Darcy Wong, had plans to renovate and open quickly in the spring of 2020. Then came the pandemic.

“It was just too unpredictable to navigate,” Wong said of his decision to defer opening. “Plus I have older parents. We just wanted to have an abundance of caution, we figured it wasn’t a good time … restaurants are challenging at the best of times, never mind in the middle of a pandemic.”

Now that vaccines are rolling out and restrictions are lifting, Wong decided to get started, quietly opening on Wednesday to gauge reaction, which has so far been positive.

It will now be open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch on weekdays then 4 to 8:30 p.m. for supper, and a little later on Fridays and Saturdays, until 9 p.m.

Wong is excited to share Wild Ginger’s culinary vision with Penticton, a fusion of many different Asian-background dishes.

“It’s basically Asian comfort food, you know. We’ve got a lot of popular dishes from China, a lot of popular dishes from Thailand and Vietnam,” Wong explained.

“Come celebrate the beginning of the end of the pandemic with us!”

Wild Ginger has takeout and delivery options, as well as dine-in. Find its website and menu here.

OK Corral ready for comeback
Madison Erhardt - Jun 11, 2021 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Get ready to throw on your cowboy boots.

The OK Corral has taken to social media to share it will be reopening soon.

The country bar shared a video on Instagram Tuesday with the caption “Are you ready?” The video includes various footage of people dancing and singing pre pandemic with the words “Guess what? We are opening soon.”

In July of last year the OK Corral announced that it would be closed indefinitely after 36 years in business.

Prior to the closure the bar had a number of COVID-19 precautions in place such as no dancing, no table-hopping, sanitization and social distancing, as well as six guests maximum per table.

A reopening date has not yet been announced.

Hotel association wants plan
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jun 10, 2021 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

The BC Hotel Association is pleading with its stakeholders to write letters to their MPs in an effort to get international tourists back into the province as soon as possible.

The federal government announced this week that, beginning in early July, fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents returning from international destinations will no longer have to do a hotel quarantine.

That does not apply to international travellers, however, and that is why the BCHA wants to apply pressure on the government to come up with a reopening plan for international tourists.

“With no incoming tourism and the ability for Canadian residents to travel more freely internationally, our industry risks losing critical local business as B.C. and Canadian residents may pivot to book vacations south of the border,” BCHA president and CEO Ingrid Jarrett wrote in a letter to the hospitality community.

The BCHA proudly supports the #OpenTheBorder campaign and recognizes that it is critical that a phased reopening plan be announced to give industry time to market, rehire, and prepare for international visitors.”

Jarrett called the last 15 months of the U.S.-Canada border closure “devastating” to the B.C. tourism and hospitality industry.

“It’s time we begin welcoming vaccinated travellers from outside of Canada,” she said.

Huge hike at local pumps
Wayne Moore - Jun 10, 2021 - Biz Releases

Photo: Wayne Moore

If you can find gas at $1.36 a litre, grab it. It likely won’t last long.

Following the lead of some stations around Vernon, gas stations in the Central Okanagan have driven prices up to 145.9 a litre.

That’s a nine cent increase from what it has been for nearly three months.

The price around Kelowna reflects an increase at Petro Canada stations in Vernon that made the jump Wednesday.

A search of gasbuddy.com shows stations across the Okanagan and Thompson regions have started making the jump to 146.9.

Typically, the price of gas does rise as summer, and the July long weekend approaches and more people hit the road.

According to the Petro Can rack pricing list, stations across the Southern Interior are paying 90.5 cents a litre, plus about 50 cents in taxes and overhead.

Chamber to welcome O’Toole
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jun 10, 2021 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Canada’s official Opposition leader is coming to Kelowna—sort of.

Erin O’Toole will be the guest speaker at a virtual Kelowna Chamber of Commerce event on Friday, June 25, at noon.

The Conservative Party of Canada leader will give a 15- to 20-minute presentation that will cover his nine years in Parliament, his party’s platform and the major issues that his party wants to see tackled in 2021.

Participants in the virtual event will have the opportunity to ask questions of O’Toole at the conclusion of his presentation.

You can pay what you wish to attend, including nothing, but registration is required.

Vernon vineyard still holding
Darren Handschuh - Jun 10, 2021 - Biz Releases

File photo: Castanet

Work on a massive vineyard project along Bella Vista Road in Vernon is still on hold, months after flooding concerns were raised by area residents.

The winery is being built by Frind Properties, which is owned by tech mogul Markus Frind, and has cleared hundreds of acres in the Bella Vista hills.

The City of Vernon ordered work be stopped on the property in February after drainage concerns from surrounding homeowners.

Several homes had water running through their yards, prompting the city to halt the project.

“City staff continue to work with the property owner on the required stormwater management plans,” the city says.

“Limited work has been permitted on site during this time. At such time as all permitting requirements are met, the property owner will be able to resume full work activities on the site.”

Frind, founder of the online dating site Plenty of Fish, has been working on the 900-acre parcel of land that stretches from below The Rise Golf Course to above Bella Vista Road since 2019.

Frind also owns Frind Estate Beach Winery in West Kelowna on the former Bennett property.

Biz awards need sponsors
Okanagan Edge Staff - Jun 10, 2021 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed
Last year’s awards show had to go virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is gearing up for its 37th annual Business Excellence Awards this October.

MNP will once again be the title sponsor the big event, which will be held on Oct. 29 at Vernon Performing Arts Centre, and the chamber is seeking sponsors for the individual awards.

As of now, the awards ceremony will once again be a virtual event, but as restrictions are eased in-person attendance will be implemented.

The awards that are seeking sponsors include:
• Large Business of the Year (50+ employees)
• New Business of the Year
• Business Leader of the Year
• Retail Business of the Year
• Restaurant of the Year
• Young Entrepreneur of the Year
• Employer of the Year

Businesses that are interested in sponsoring an award can contact chamber general manager Dan Proulx at [email protected].

Kamloops market still cooking
Kristen Holliday - Jun 10, 2021 - Biz Releases

While some other cities in B.C. have experienced a bit of a downturn in real estate sales in recent weeks, May statistics show the Kamloops market remains hot.

Realtors with the Kamloops and District Real Estate Association are predicting it will remain firmly a sellers’ market for the rest of 2021.

KADREA president Chelsea Mann said there are still some indications the local market is trying to find a balance, but the Tournament Capital has a long way to go before that actually happens.

“Kamloops is holding up where other markets are seeing a little bit of a decline in the sales,” Mann said. “Although our sales numbers haven’t dropped, we have been feeling on the ground a slight shift. I’m calling it a relaxation. … It’s kind of like when you’re driving, and you take our foot off the gas, but you don’t press the brake. It’s sort of that same feeling.”

In the Kamloops region, a total of 388 residential unit sales were recorded in May 2021, compared with 326 in May 2019.

Statistics from KADREA show there were 513 new listings in May, with 724 active listings in the Kamloops area as of June 3.

“We’re about 1,100 listings shy of a balanced market, so that’s going to take a long time to get back, because it’s a slow process,” Mann said. “I think that basically, the trends of sales being high and listings being low is going to continue on throughout the rest of this year.”

Aaron Krausert, a realtor and director with KADREA, said Kamloops will still be “firmly in a sellers’ market” unless there is an increase in listings.

“The market isn’t cooling yet,” Krausert said.

He said the average price for a single family home climbed to $670,000 in May in comparison to $656,000 in April.

However, Krausert said he has noticed fewer multiple offers on homes.

“January until April, there were tons and tons of multiple offers. Now some deals are coming together with just one offer in place, and some sales are actually going under asking price,” he said.

“We do see multiple offers still, but what I’ve noticed is less offers, where we used to see eight, nine, 10 offers on a home, maybe we’re seeing two or three a lot more often.”

As of June 1, the government increased the threshold for the mortgage stress test, which Krausert said may have an impact moving forward into the summer.

Now, the minimum rate for uninsured mortgages is the mortgage rate plus two per cent, or 5.25%, whichever is higher.

“We’re going to see more pressure on lower prices than where we’ve been for the last six months,” Krausert said.

“When they’ve increased the qualifying, you’re going to be affording slightly less. … So someone who has $400,000, they could buy an entry level home. But if that’s $370,000, you’re kind of now townhouse, half-duplex, for sure. So it just is going to affect some of that buying power.”

Mann said the best advice she has in regards to the new stress test threshold is for buyers to speak with their mortgage brokers.

“They’re going to be the key to telling them exactly what they can afford, if anything has changed at all for them,” Mann said.

“It’s a lot scarier sounding than the reality. We haven’t really seen much effect of this on the buying power of most people.”

Mann said the stress test was actually higher pre-pandemic than it is currently.

“Interest rates went down so low that they had to level that out a little bit,” she said. “Now, as interest rates are chipping up a little bit, that’s why it’s coming back up to the 5.25 per cent that it’s at now.”

As the province begins to re-open, many are looking to see what the resulting impact will be on the real estate market.

“Coming into the summer, we always seem to get a little bit busier. And with the restrictions easing up, I could see that continuing on, so I do think we’re going to have a really strong market throughout the rest of the year,” Mann said.

Krausert said how the coming months look in Kamloops real estate could have a lot to do with the vaccination effort.

“We’re thinking that now people are getting the shot, people are being more comfortable. A lot of those listings that didn’t come on the market are going to come on, but it hasn’t happened yet,” Krausert said.

“So will that happen over the summer as more people get the shot, and they’re more comfortable with having strangers coming through their house? Maybe. A lot of buyers are hoping so but we just haven’t seen that yet.”

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