The importance of communication

October 10, 2016

Last month, at the BC Chamber Executives Conference in Parksville, the Summerland Chamber was honoured with the 2016 BCCE Communications Award for Chambers with more than 500 members.

We take our communications with our stakeholders very seriously and work hard to reach all our audiences. In addition to serving our 700+ members, the Summerland Chamber is also responsible for tourism and business retention and expansion activities on behalf of the District of Summerland.

Because of these multiple roles in the community, our communications activities are significant and we often use a different ‘voice’ to reach our varying audiences. We also won this award in 2013 and since that time we’ve made significant changes. In the spring of 2014 we completed a major project to separate our tourism information from our main Chamber site.


Tourismsummerland.com provided a new showcase for our many business members in the tourism sector and the activities and attractions that Summerland is known for. The site is rich in photos and text and provides a comprehensive directory of our tourism business members. We make significant investments in search engine optimization each year in order to attract visitors to the site. The site is supported by social media on the following platforms: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

In addition to various print media and the social media above, our tourism and communication staff is currently involved in a provincial pilot training project through Destination BC to enhance our social media efforts for tourism with an emphasis on Twitter.

In 2015 we were able to take on the project of re-doing our main Chamber website, www.summerlandchamber.com. Our goal was to put our 700+ members front and centre with a beautiful new business directory, which links from the main page of the website. This new site gives us the option to also include more pictures and videos and is supported by social media at facebook.com/SummerlandChamber and twitter.com/summerlandchmbr.

Our news pages link to monthly newsletters, the very popular Business Buzz which highlights the activities of our members, and also this blog. Through our economic development activities, we have partnered in the last two years with the District of Summerland to create a series of informative videos about business and investment opportunities in the community which can be viewed on our website or on our YouTube channel.

In March of this year, again partnering with the District of Summerland, we created a local shopping campaign to benefit our members called #discoverhome. This series of 10 videos has been shared through Facebook to Summerland residents as well as through Instagram and has received more than 40,000 views.

The Chamber is also responsible for a major event in Summerland called the Festival of Lights, held the last Friday of November. 2016 will be the 29th year the Chamber has presented the festival and it is the Okanagan Valley’s premier kick-off to the winter holidays.

The festival attracted almost 8000 visitors last year and is supported by its own website at www.summerlandlightup.com and on Facebook. We live in a world where the ability to communicate is key. A recent article in Forbes Magazine stated that ‘in order to innovate, it’s not enough to just come up with big ideas, you also need to work hard to communicate them clearly.’ The Summerland Chamber sincerely appreciates being recognized by our provincial peers for success in this area.


Agricultural technology has deep roots in Summerland

September 26, 2016

Growing up I spent a lot of time in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, where my grandparents and uncles farmed for more than 50 years.  And when I moved to Summerland I couldn’t help but think that this was like the Niagara of my childhood, made even more beautiful with mountains.  The meandering views, the orchards, vineyards, fresh picked fruit and bountiful markets, affect all of us who visit and live here.  But what about beyond what we see and taste?  What is agriculture doing in our economy?

Canada has about 7% of its land that is suitable for farming and of that, 4% is located in BC.  Overall in Canada, primary agriculture accounts for a much smaller share of output and jobs than in earlier years.  For example, in Kelowna, the share of the population directly employed in agriculture is less than 2%.  And there are those who believe that food production can be more cost effectively left to other countries, even after accounting for environmental impacts.

However, we also know that the processing of ag products, as well as retailing, food services, transportation, handling and the provision of input supplies to primary agriculture are major Canadian industries.

Wine is one great example of beverage processing.  In BC the Okanagan region is the major wine producing area.  The BC Wine Institute reports that, in 2011, the BC wine and grape industry alone contributed 1.43 billion to the provincial economy and counting jobs and taxes, had an overall economic impact of over 2 billion.  Remember those beautiful vineyards I mentioned earlier?  The wine industry also brought 800,000 wine tourists to the province, primarily benefiting the Okanagan region.

So while primary agriculture has its challenges, niche agriculture products and support have excellent growth potential, both in BC and closer to home.  The Government of BC is also looking at this and, as part of its 2015 – 2018 strategic plan, has prioritized the growth of the agri-food and technology sectors.

To respond to these opportunities, and as part of the sector development work the Summerland Chamber of Commerce is involved in with the District of Summerland and the South Okanagan regional economic development group, we have been exploring the agricultural technology sector for a few years.

What started as casual conversations began to coalesce into more meaningful discussions with government and industry leaders around the possibilities to grow businesses in these sectors in Summerland.  For example, precision science and technology services pertaining to agriculture, supply chain businesses in the wine industry, neutraceutical and biotechnology companies, businesses that work in telematics, RFID technology, soil sensors, RTK navigation systems, etc., are all potential business that could be a fit for our community.

There are a number of reasons why Summerland is a great choice for growth in this area. We are a community founded in the agricultural sector and, in particular, we are home to the cutting-edge Summerland Research and Development Centre.  Over the years, world renowned food based bio-technology companies have begun as research projects at the Centre and then commercialized, grown and remained in Summerland and we know that cluster opportunities exist.

Entrepreneurs in these sectors are also seeing global threats as potential business opportunities.

Studies show that climate change in this region will require significant adaptation to ensure long term success for this sector.   The BC Agriculture Climate Change Adaptation Risk + Opportunity Assessment Report of 2012 states that new ways to deal with water use, pest management and disease control are critical to the industry.  However, the development of these responses as well as agriculture technology, innovation and information management systems can reduce operating costs, precisely control inputs and improve yields for producers in the Okanagan and globally.

We shouldn’t forget that Summerland is also ideally situated in the heart of the Okanagan with close proximity to major centres such as Kelowna and Penticton, fast access to two airports and easy connections to major highways that take our products east to the rest of Canada, west to the Lower Mainland and south to the US.

Agricultural technology businesses located in Summerland would provide increased economic and employment opportunities in our community and region and build on Summerland’s deep roots in agriculture.

Sector development is not a fast process but real strides can be made in 3-5 years.  We hope the community will be interested in supporting this development.

Christine Petkau is Executive Director of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Summerland. The Chamber is also responsible for business retention, expansion and attraction (economic development services) on behalf of the District of Summerland.


Tourism Plays Major Role in Summerland’s Economic Development

August 8, 2016

In the Okanagan region tourism is a dynamic force in our local economies. Here in Summerland the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association estimates that tourism contributes as much as $50,000,000 to our local economy each year.

Increasingly we also understand that tourism isn’t just fun for fun’s sake, but instead it’s a tremendous leverage for resident attraction and investment. People visit communities and enjoy the amenities, then decide to relocate, bring their families, buy homes and start businesses.

A great way to introduce people to our community is through festivals and events. And through those events, visitors are seeking authenticity and an experience. This September there are three new events in Summerland that deliver on all fronts and will make a wonderful introduction to our community.

The first of these events is the new Marginal Arts Festival, September 1 – 4, created by the Ryga Festival Society. The festival honors the work of Canadian playwright and author, George Ryga, who lived in Summerland from 1963 until his death in 1987.

The weekend will include professional workshops, readings, concerts, a variety show, and performances in many art forms. A homecoming concert will be performed by 3-time Juno Award winner, Campbell Ryga and his band.

That same weekend there is a new wine event being held that will celebrate our wineries and cider companies as well as the history of the Kettle Valley Steam Railway (KVR). The Grand Sommelier Express is being hosted by the Bottleneck Drive Association and will feature a reception, a ride on the historic KVR with an all on-board wine tasting and a three course wine-makers’ dinner served at the railway station and accompanied by live music.

More feasting will be available the following weekend at the inaugural Summerland Feast of Farms. The feast will be presented under the stars, complete with musical entertainment, at Dickinson Family Farm, Summerland, BC. Locally produced wine, cheese, and bread sampling will be followed by a seated, family-style, ‘long table’ chef prepared, meal for 100 guests. This event is a fundraiser for the expansion of a Summerland community garden and the purchase of gardening tools for shared use.

We’re looking forward to all of these new events and expect them to be a wonderful introduction to our beautiful community. For information about these events and many more in Summerland, please visit:www.summerlandchamber.com/events/calendar.


Local Economic Development in BC

July 22, 2016

In June I had the opportunity to attend the BC Economic Development Association’s (BCEDA) 2016 Summit held in Richmond.  One of the sessions introduced the results of the 2016 survey of economic development in BC.  This survey included 414 responses from communities throughout BC and was sponsored by the BCEDA, the Union of BC Municipalities and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Economic Development Division.

Some of the responses were particularly interesting from our Chamber’s perspective as we partner with the District of Summerland to deliver economic development initiatives in our community.  While we’ve done that for more than 15 years, the survey showed that this is becoming more common in BC.  In 2009 the survey showed that 4% of communities used the services of their local Chambers to undertake EcDev work.  In 2016 that number has climbed substantially to 32% overall with midsize communities of 5,000 – 50,000 being even higher at 38%.

Those in favor of having economic development delivered by an organization separate from the City, whether Chambers or other organizations, suggested that the arms-length relationship was non-partisan and provided the ability to build greater trust with the business community.

The report indicated that local business retention and expansion activities (BRE) continue to be the top priority for economic development efforts (65%), followed by tourism and cultural activities (48%), and attracting external industry, businesses and resources.

“Specific to BRE efforts, the three most commonly identified activities are community profiles, a developed website and personal contact with existing businesses. Other common BRE activities are business walks programs, promotional brochures and “Buy Local” events, the last of which saw a substantial increase” from  the 2009 survey.

To read Summerland’s Investment and Relocation Guide, view our promotional videos, check the reports from our 2015 and 2016 business walks or check out our #discoverhome local shopping campaign, please visit our website.

To read the province’s report in its entirety please visit gov.bc.ca/economicdevelopment.

Christine Petkau is Executive Director of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Summerland. She can be reached at cpetkau@summerlandchamber.com.


Celebrating Tourism in our Economy for Tourism Week

May 31, 2016

Summerland joins communities, cities and regions around British Columbia to recognize National Tourism Week – May 29 – June 4.  This is well deserved recognition as BC’s visitor economy has been one of the province’s top performing business sectors over the past two years, generating $14.6 billion in revenue in 2014, expanding faster than the economy at large and outpacing traditional sectors such as agriculture and fishing.

The Okanagan is a very popular tourism destination in the province, generating approximately $1.7 billion/year according to the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association.   Here in Summerland, Mayor Peter Waterman joined us at the beginning of Tourism Week to recognize the achievements of local tourism operators, employees, our destination marketing organization – Tourism Summerland, and other stakeholders by personally welcoming guests to the Summerland Visitor Centre.

Tourism in Summerland is managed by the Chamber and is closely tied to our business retention and expansion responsibilities.  As the numbers above show, tourism is an economic juggernaut, both in our community and our region and while it often looks like ‘fun’, it’s far more than that.  Events, beaches, wineries, cultural and agricultural attractions all serve as a funnel for economic activity, investment and resident attraction in our communities, and often capture a key demographic that is very important to us.

Between the Visitor Centre and our 80+ tourism sector businesses, we estimate that in 2015 more than 100,000 people visited Summerland and enjoyed authentic and memorable experiences.   We didn’t have the opportunity to serve all these guests at the Visitor Centre, so this year we are expanding our scope and our presence to also offer visitor services 5 days/week in downtown Summerland.  Our Chamber members as well as our tourism sector members welcome this new initiative.

While the BC tourism industry experienced both summer and winter seasons of record setting numbers last year, the trend is continuing as businesses and destinations across BC have already enjoyed a busy first quarter and are anticipating more record results this summer.  We invite everyone to visit us in Summerland –‘ the locals pick for an authentic Okanagan experience’.

Christine Petkau is Executive Director of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Summerland. She can be reached at cpetkau@summerlandchamber.com.


Biking tourism focus: Summerland, Penticton and Naramata partner on ‘Chain of Events’

April 29, 2016

For the past few years, I’ve been writing every spring about the power of cycling as an economic rejuvenator. Happily, on every front the cycling infrastructure in the Okanagan region continues to grow.

2 years ago a comprehensive economic impact study was done on the proposed North Okanagan Rail Trail that indicated significant benefits in terms of full time jobs and incremental spending. Many different types of businesses will benefit, such as accommodation facilities, food and beverage establishments, transportation companies, wineries, museums, recreation facilities and retail trade outlets.

A key consideration is that the expansion of cycling and trail routes provides all these economic benefit in our shoulder seasons, bringing people to the region as early as March/April and giving them the opportunity to enjoy the area right through Oct/November.

Similar economic benefits are expected to come to the South Okanagan and we have already seen many changes in the past 15 months. By working in their own arenas and together, the provincial government, the RDOS, our municipal governments, the South Okanagan Indian bands and numerous community groups have made great strides.

At their recent AGM, the Trail of the Okanagans Society provided a time line itemizing these which include ones directly impacting Summerland, such as the opening, last summer, of Phase I of the Lakeside Pathway connecting Lower Town to Trout Creek.

A few months ago stakeholders met to discuss options for Phase II of the Lakeside Pathway between SunOka Beach and Penticton and the Province, MOTI and Summerland and Penticton municipal councils have now committed funds for the design study.

Phase III, connecting Summerland to Peachland via the Fur Brigade Trail is also being planned and has support from groups to the north of Summerland. A new local bike path, as part of the municipal Garnett Valley Rd. resurfacing project, will link people to the trail.

In order to more effectively market this growing infrastructure to tourists, Penticton, Summerland and Naramata have joined together and have received funding support from our municipalities and from Destination BC for a spring bike festival called Chain of Events. This is a May and early June regional festival highlighting all the various events that are available for bike enthusiasts to join and is being promoted in the lower mainland and Alberta.

Two Summerland events that are featured are Tea at the Top on May 8, sponsored by Trail of the Okanagans and the new bike race event as part of the Giants Head Grind on the May long weekend.

In 2017 the communities hope to launch a signature event that takes riders on a horseshoe shaped tour between the 3 communities and will involve a water element.

Please visit http://www.okchainofevents.com to see the full regional list and learn about all the events.

We always appreciate your feedback. Please contact me at cpetkau@summerlandchamber.com or our Chamber President, Erick Thompson, at president@summerlandchamber.com .

Christine Petkau is the Executive Director of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce.


Is labour an issue for your business?

March 11, 2016

Is labour an issue for your business?  Finding the right employees? Training them and finally, hanging on to the right people?  If so, you’re not alone.  On March 18th the South Okanagan is rolling out solutions.

We’ve known anecdotally that labour has been a challenge but in the last 5 months, partners in the South Okanagan have gone to great lengths to prove it.

These partners have included South Okanagan chambers along with regional economic development staff, the City of Penticton, Okanagan College Faculty of Business and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skill Training.  With funding provided by the Ministry and the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition, a researcher was engaged to discover key issues for employers.

Frequently mentioned relocation issues included the cost of living, housing costs and availability, seasonality of available work, business skill building, community reticence to growth, workers with spouses who can’t find employment, and succession planning.   But across all the sectors, shortages in skilled labour was number one.

At the same time, the City of Penticton had received funds from the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada to engage in a specific labor study researching many elements of the labor question and the Local Immigration Partnership Council has also recently released its report on the employment experiences of recent immigrants.

Combine all of this formal research with the business walks conducted in Summerland and other South Okanagan communities in October and that’s a lot of data.

On the morning of March 18th we’re bringing together a panel of the region’s most creative employers, large and small, and across sectors, to share their best solutions for managing this key business issue.  All employers attending will be asked to prioritize ‘what we must do first’ and help inform the next steps in our region.  The forum will be held at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre and will provide tangible solutions for our business members and culminate in a stronger more competitive regional business environment.