Summerland Festival of Lights shines a light on community and downtown businesses

November 19, 2015


Every year the Summerland Chamber plans and hosts the Okanagan’s premier kick off to the Christmas season.  The 28th annual Festival of Lights will be held on Friday, November 27th this year and the theme is Country Christmas.  Just over 6000 visitors are expected for the evening.

We love Light Up because it gives us a chance to celebrate the season, showcase our beautiful downtown and let people know that Summerland is a great community where families thrive and businesses prosper.

The fun begins with the Santa procession at 5:00 pm.  The evening also features western themed Ice Sculptures sponsored by Nesters Market, Santa’s workshop hosted by the Summerland Credit Union, and fun kid zone activities and photos with Santa sponsored by IGA.  All the Summerland Royalty and candidates will be dressed in their western best this year with matching light up Stetsons.  Get a picture of yourself riding ‘El Diablo’ the mechanical bull!  And remind your kids to bring their letters to Santa to drop off at the post office.    Your family will also enjoy pony and ATV rides, bouncy toys, community dancers and choirs and great music.

At 7:00 pm the street will go dark and the whole crowd will count down to the moment of Light Up.  It’s magical!  Fresh from Sun Fest and the Merritt Music Festival, county group The Chris Buck Band will entertain on the main stage this year, along with duo Robyn and Ryleigh.  A spectacular fireworks finale is sponsored by the Summerland Credit Union and will be set to country music.

You’ll also be able to try the most delicious food you’ve ever seen in one place!  We simply couldn’t put on this amazing event without the participation of some great partners,  Festival Services sponsor Progressive Waste Solutions  and Festival Support from the District of Summerland.   See you on November 27th .  You can check out all the activities and details at www.summerlandlightup.com.

This is the kick off to a fantastic weekend with the 5th Annual Light UpThe Vines being held on Saturday and Sunday, November 28th & 29th.  This beautiful self guided winery tour is hosted by our winery association, Bottleneck Drive and their member wineries and cideries.   All the locations are lit for Christmas and offer tastings and other delicious fare.   More information can be found at www.bottleneckdrive.com.

The Summerland Waterfront Resort has exciting accommodation packages designed for the weekend so you can stay and play in style.  Check those out at www.summerlandresorthotel.com.

It’s a fabulous weekend to be in Summerland!

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



Small Business Week celebrates entrepreneurs

October 16, 2015

Small Business Week in Canada will be celebrated from October 19th to the 25th.  This is the national celebration of entrepreneurs and the contributions of their small businesses to our country’s economy.

Across British Columbia, 98 percent of businesses are small businesses, employing more than a million people.  And here in Summerland, small businesses are the heart and soul of our community and the engine of our local economy.

This year we are celebrating with a couple of events.  On October 20 our Business after Business event (small business week edition) will be celebrated at Summerland Credit Union and will include a trade show of Credit Union member businesses.

Later that week, Summerland will conduct its first ever Business Walk event.  Business Walks were first initiated in Canada in 2012 by the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission.  Since that time business walks have been conducted in many BC and Alberta communities and the majority of Okanagan communities.

The goal of a business walk is to provide an informal opportunity to connect with businesses face-to-face and take the pulse of the business community.  On October 22nd, Chamber Board members will team up with Summerland’s Mayor Waterman and Councillors to visit a number of local businesses to ask some brief questions. We anticipate being able to reach over 100 local businesses in a half day.

Following the visits, the Chamber will create a report indicating common themes raised by the business community.  Working together with Mayor and Council will provides us with an opportunity to celebrate and promote local businesses and provide our business members with an opportunity to share their views and build new relationships.  This is a great way to celebrate Small Business Week.

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


International travel writers tour the Okanagan for the 12th annual GoMedia Canada Marketplace

October 5, 2015

Travel writers from all over the world were in Penticton last week for the 12th annual GoMedia Canada Marketplace. GoMedia is produced annually by Destination Canada (formerly the Canadian Tourism Commission). This year’s event, hosted by Tourism Penticton, the City of Penticton, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and Destination British Columbia, will be staged at the Penticton Convention Centre, with events and tours scheduled throughout the region.

As the Summerland Chamber also manages Tourism Summerland, we participated for the first time in this event to market our community. In the GoMedia model, tourism marketers from across Canada have the opportunity to speak with top travel media from around the globe. The event features a market place where pre-arranged 15 minute meetings take place between journalists and exhibitors. Through these one-on-one meetings, networking events and tours in the local communities, we had the opportunity to showcase Summerland and provide writers with a roster full of inspiring stories that they can tell in their publications and on-line.

Summerland was also responsible for hosting 2 tours during the conference. These were held the morning and afternoon of September 28th. Summerland’s tours were designed to illustrate how the Okanagan region was originally opened up via the Kettle Valley Railway system and went on to become a fruit supplier to the rest of the country. Our tours included a ride on the KVSR, a stop at Summerland Sweets, an organic harvest lunch and an apple tasting demonstration provided by scientists from the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre.

According to their profiles, the journalists have a wide range of interests, media, audiences, demographics and clients that they write for. Our job is to help the writers find stories they can sell to their editors and those editors want stories that are compelling and relevant. In order to make these writers’ work easier, a media section has been developed for our website. This area has story ideas, contact people and images all ready to go.

We always keep in mind that travelers may someday also become residents. Those of us who came here as visitors and then moved here know this is true. Travel is an excellent funnel for residents and future investors in our communities so we wear our economic development hat for an event like this as well.

All in all, the GoMedia conference is no small undertaking. The expectation is that we will see many exciting stories being written about the Okanagan in the year to come and these will entice new visitors to our region.

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


South Okanagan Chambers plan Business Solutions Forums for members.

August 20, 2015


As part of business retention and expansion support for our members, South Okanagan Chambers have been planning a series of Business Solutions Forums.

The need for these forums arises from previous collective work with our business members that has identified that common issues exist in the business community.  These common issues include, but aren’t limited to: cost of living, housing costs and availability, seasonality of much of the available work, shortages in skilled labor, succession planning and business skill building, community reticence to growth, workers with spouses who can’t find employment, etc.

The goal of the proposed business solutions forums is to create the opportunity for businesses struggling with common issues to share existing creative solutions with each other; both to learn from one another and to explore potential collaborative solutions in a neutral environment.

In addition to the Chamber Executive Directors from Penticton, South Okanagan and Summerland, the planning group has included economic development representative from Penticton, Summerland and Osoyoos, economic development staff from the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skill Training (JTST) and representatives from Okanagan College School of Business.

Through the fall communities will be organizing and conducting business walks and a number of individual business interviews will also be conducted in order to gather information.  In the early winter of 2016 the forums will be conducted with the goal of determining solutions that can be implemented.  Findings will also be shared with other regions.  Hopefully these forums will provide tangible solutions for our business members and culminate in a stronger more competitive regional business environment.

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


Summerland Volunteers Help Our Community Thrive

July 30, 2015

Einstein said that not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts.

One of those intangibles in every community, and certainly here in Summerland, are the amazing volunteers here.  Sometimes the effects of their efforts can be very evident, such as the work that the Summerland Rotary group has done to create the new Sunday market.  In fact, when I turn to the Calendar of Events in the 2015 Visitors Guide, I count almost 30 events that are wholly or partially dependent on volunteers for their success.

Others times, volunteers are active in our community in a quieter way such as operating the Food Bank, participating in special library programs, weeding the Ornamental Gardens, creating museum and art gallery displays and programs or participating on one of the Committees of Council.

Economic pundits sometimes try to assign a value to volunteer efforts with a basic hours multiplied by wage equation.  But this is too simplistic.  In our most recent video launched in February, called ‘Our Connected Community’ we talked about supporting the local organizations and events that bring vitality and meaning to our communities.  Vitality and meaning can’t be quantified in dollars and cents but that’s the real power that volunteers both bring to our community and take away in what they gain from having contributed their time.

Visitors notice this aspect of our community as well, and the Chamber talks about our culture of volunteerism in economic development videos and publications because we know this attracts more residents to our community.

At the Granfondo Aid Station in Summerland, early in the morning of July 19, more than 2000 bike riders swept through town, many of them stopping to chat for a moment with us and grab a drink, a treat, some help with their bike or first aid.  Between the Aid Station and traffic control, there were more than 30 Summerland volunteers.  Most of the riders expressed thanks to the volunteers for coming out.  In the coming months, please take a moment to thank a local volunteer that you may encounter.  And if you’re one of those remarkable volunteers, we thank you for contributing to the vitality of Summerland.  It couldn’t happen without your support.

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

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


Economic gardening helps businesses grow

July 15, 2015

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a 2-day ‘Introduction to Economic Gardening’ workshop in Penticton.  Sponsored by Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen, the course was taught by Chris Gibbons, founder of the National Center for Economic Gardening.

For 20 years Gibbons was the Business Director in Littleton, Colorado.  During that time, employing Economic Gardening principles, the number of jobs in the city doubled from 15,000 to 30,000 and sales tax revenues more than tripled from $6 million to $21 million.  The city did not recruit a single new industry during that period, nor did it offer any money in incentives or tax breaks.

For a community and its businesses to be healthy, new jobs have to be created.  In the US, according to Gibbons, companies with more than 500 staff have not contributed one net job to the economy since 2000.  The reality is that almost 40% of jobs come from companies defined as Stage 2 growth companies – those with 10 or more staff and over $1 million in revenues.  In most communities these represent about 10% of businesses.  These companies represent a community’s wealth creation opportunities and can benefit from economic gardening tools.

So what is economic gardening?  Economic Gardening is strategic research expertise for stage 2 growth companies geared to solving their key problems.

Through interviews with the company’s executive team, researchers will explore a company’s core strategy, their market and team dynamics, their level of innovation and their qualified sales leads.  Then, utilizing highly sophisticated business intelligence databases for market, GIS and SEO research, economic gardening professionals will help a company identify such things as national and global competitors, market trends and key opportunities for growth.

In the US, economic gardening has been utilized for 25 year across 46 states and for those Stage 2 companies that have participated, has contributed to double digit growth in new jobs and revenue.

In the US, the service is supported through Foundations in many states.  In Canada, because no sponsoring organization has yet been identified, there are reasonable fees associated with the service.  The services are offered through the Canadian Centre for Business Growth, headquartered in Penticton.

In a region where we are all searching for ways to support our business members, economic gardening can be a great new tool.  For more information about the program go to: http://edwardlowe.org/tools-programs/economic-gardening/.  To learn more about the Canadian Centre for Business Growth go to: http://www.c2bg.ca/


New initiatives put Summerland tourism in focus

July 6, 2015

In Summerland, one of the roles of the Chamber of Commerce is to promote and support tourism in the community.
In 2014 we launched a comprehensive new website, tourismsummerland.com that engages viewers with more than 80 pages of beautiful images and exciting experiences that can be found here.  We also launched a stunning new tourism video which can be found on the main page of the site.  This year we’ve introduced a digital quarterly tourism newsletter that reaches out to more than 15,000 people in BC and Alberta.

We’re hoping that these initiatives are contributing to our rising numbers – both hard stats in the visitor centre and anecdotally from our tourism and hospitality member businesses.  Last year the Summerland Visitor Centre welcomed more than 12,000 visitors, up more than 30% since 2013, and one of only 3 communities in the Okanagan region to show increased numbers.

There’s no denying that tourism acts as a juggernaut in our local economy.  TOTA estimates that Summerland receives approx. 3% of the annual 1.7 Billion dollars of tourism income in our region.  And the fact is that tourism and economic development are not two separate areas.  Communities now recognize that people who move to the Okanagan and invest likely came here first as tourists.

Last month we had the opportunity to attend TOTA’s 3rd year update of the 10 year strategy they launched in 2012.  A couple of the exciting initiatives they are working on at the Thomson Okanagan level are bike path development and developing our region as a winter destination.  These parallel initiatives that that South Okanagan Economic Development Consortium are also working on – initiatives that recognize that what’s great for tourism is also great for economic development.  And if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that working together on these projects benefits everyone.

You can ride your bike to a new tourism and economic development initiative that’s coming specifically to Summerland this summer. The brainchild of the local Rotary organization, a new Sunday market will showcase Summerland producers, farmers, wineries and merchants and will also provide live entertainment.  The Chamber is supporting the market with promotion as well as summer student support. This great new market, that kicked off Sunday, June 21 (9 am – 2 pm) and will run through September, is already creating great interest.  We hope to see you in Summerland this summer!



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