Summerland Chamber of Commerce Creates Task Forces

October 30, 2017

The Summerland Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted this month to create three task forces to address three key issues of importance to chamber and community members.  These task forces will focus on Housing, Downtown Revitalization and Tourism.

Summerland Chamber President Erick Thompson says “housing and downtown revitalization are both issues that have been raised by our business members as keys to success in Summerland.  The task forces were created to address each of these areas. Task force members will be focusing on a limited number of key projects that they can take action on and see through to completion.  The projects will be determined by each group during their initial meetings.  The task forces efforts will compliment the work of the District of Summerland, which is creating in-depth studies of these areas.”

“The tourism task force will be charged with developing the strategic plan for tourism for the next few years,” says Thompson. “This group was last active during the tourism branding project in 2012/2013 and is comprised of a cross-section of chamber members in all areas of the tourism sector.”

The task forces will be chaired by Chamber Board Directors as follows: Housing – Erick Thompson, et2media; Downtown Revitalization – Keri Harding, RSD Premium Apparel; Tourism – Marion Christian, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery.  Task force participation will be at the invitation of the Chairs.

As part of their work in tourism, Summerland Chamber staff are currently planning the 30th Anniversary of the Festival of Lights, to be held Friday, November 24th.  Each year the festival attracts more than 7,000 guests from around the Okanagan region, lower Mainland and the Washington interior.  The festival features live entertainment from the Main Stage as well as a brand new Children’s stage, ice carvings, fireworks, numerous children’s activities, visits with Santa and terrific food.  All activities are free for visitors.

Spend the whole weekend in Summerland.  In honour of the 30th anniversary, the Kettle Valley Steam Railway will be running two special ‘Fall Festive Trains’ on Saturday, November 25th.  The annual Light Up the Vines event is also taking place November 25-26 at the 23 member winery and craft beverage producers of the Bottleneck Drive Association.  Visit Summerlandlightup.com for information on all these events and where to spend the night.  Summerland is the place to be from November 24-26th.

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


BC Chambers Executive Conference Displays Talent

October 11, 2017

At a recent event, a community member asked me if my job was full-time. They were surprised that, in Summerland, we have 700 Chamber members and via a contract with the District of Summerland, are also responsible for tourism and various economic development activities.

This isn’t unusual. Throughout BC, there are many Chambers that are responsible, not only for their business membership, but also for their local Visitor Centre, the Destination Management Organization, or both.

And in 2016, a BC Economic Development Survey indicated that a majority of Chambers in BC communities under 50,000 in population also have some or all of the responsibilities for their community’s economic development portfolio.

The diversity and skill set of senior Chamber staff was really brought home to me at this year’s BC Chambers Executive Conference held in Invermere a few weeks ago. Hosted by the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce at the stunning Copper Point Resort, the conference is an annual reminder of the depth of talent amongst the group I am privileged to call my colleagues.

Throughout our days together, the conversation, both in workshops and during social events, was about improving the environment in our province and country for our business members.

We discussed advocacy issues, such as the proposed recent federal tax changes, excellence in governance, best practices in financial reporting and stewardship, media relations, creative ideas for member services and engagement and how to #makepolicysexy.

Some of the Executive Directors in attendance were travelling on to federal policy sessions at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Convention in Halifax where they will continue to advocate for businesses and our colleague from the Langley Chamber had been nominated for a national award.

And our colleague from the Whistler Chamber was travelling on to Sydney, Australia as one of only a handful of nominees in the world for an innovation award at the World Chambers Congress.

Chambers of Commerce in BC and throughout the country are an amazing network with their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in our communities and in our province. At your next Chamber event, give your Chamber Executive Director a high five – they’ll appreciate it.

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.


Summerland Businesses Discuss Housing Shortage

August 9, 2017

Last week, a number of Summerland Chamber business members along with our largest community partners, met with the team from Cherie Enns Consulting to discuss affordable housing in Summerland. The consulting firm has recently been hired by the District of Summerland to conduct a housing study in our community.

Housing challenges have long been a hot point in Summerland and were raised repeatedly in the Business Walks the Chamber and District conducted in October of 2016.  The consulting firm was interested in engaging with our business members as key stakeholders in employment, development and sustainability of our community.

The discussion was excellent and covered why the issue is so important to local businesses and what opportunities we might have for innovative solutions.

Affordable housing and economic development certainly go hand in hand.  The group recognized that in recent years, manufacturers have struggled to retain staff due to lack of reasonably priced housing, hospitality employers struggle to find staff that can afford to live in the community throughout an expanded tourism season,  and young families have been prevented from moving to the community because they can’t find an affordable home.  A lack of young families has had a domino effect in that one elementary school was in danger of closing because of reduced enrollment.

It’s clear that this issue is having a real impact on the local workforce.

The group also made suggestions of what types of housing options are most needed.  In the spectrum of affordability, the most pressing needs expressed focused on rental units and entry level home ownership that could be achieved on a manufacturing wage.  Suggestions for entry level  home ownership included modest town homes, micro homes  and even floating homes that could be developed in a marina type environment.

Creativity will be required to address our community’s housing needs and this report will be an excellent step toward measuring and addressing the challenge.


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.


Agricultural Innovation Centre in Summerland One Step Closer to Reality

July 7, 2017

As part of the sector development work the Summerland Chamber of Commerce is involved in with the District of Summerland and the South Okanagan Similkameen Economic Development group (SOSED), we have been exploring the agricultural technology sector for several years.

Last October, an investment attraction strategy report completed for SOSED identified value added agriculture and agri-tech as the key sectors where our region should focus as well the areas within this where the South Okanagan has a competitive advantage.

In January, with funding support from the Rural Dividend Fund and the District of Summerland, the Chamber contracted researcher Jane Campardo of Engage Business and People Solutions to complete a feasibility study for the creation of an Okanagan Agricultural Innovation Centre.

Completed in late June, the scope of the study was to determine if there is a need for an agricultural innovation centre in the Okanagan, to study best practices from other similar facilities in BC, Canada and internationally, and if feasible,  to explore locations, potential structure, participants and preliminary costs.

As part of the study, Campardo conducted in-depth interviews with more than 100 industry people, organizations and stakeholders and held 2 regional focus groups where an additional 30 people participated.

Participants and interviewees were overwhelmingly supportive of having a Centre created in the Okanagan with 90% of those respondents supporting the Centre being located in Summerland.

They identified problems and opportunities throughout the ag value chain and created a list of must- haves for the Centre.  These consultations also identified that the overall objective of the Centre is to drive innovation, economic development and job creation in the Okanagan by supporting entrepreneurs and companies in the agricultural tech and value added agricultural industry.

Summerland was identified as the best location for the Centre due to its history in agriculture, the presence of the federal government’s Summerland Research and Development Centre in the community, and its central location in the heart of the Okanagan growing region.  As well, over the years, world renowned food based bio-technology companies have begun as research projects at SRDC and then commercialized, grown and remained in Summerland.

The next phase in the process is the creation of a detailed business plan and additional consultation.

Planning is beginning for this.  The future is exciting.

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.


Businesses gain help in navigating the export market

June 6, 2017

Recently I had the opportunity to talk to one of our Summerland business members about their experiences attending an international trade show with the goal of exporting their locally made products. The words exhilarating and frustrating probably summed it up best.

For BC businesses, export opportunities are tremendous but navigating the maze of bureaucracy and regulation to get their products and services to markets (either to another country or sometimes even to another province) can be daunting.

In the past couple of years the Province of BC has been listening to and working with small business to learn more about their export needs.  Like our local business member, they’ve identified the confusing export landscape, limited awareness of the existing supports and service gaps as some of the challenges.

BC businesses said they needed easy to access, tailored services for business needs, a logical plan of action that could be followed for exporting, and support across the entire export pathway.

To respond to these needs Small Business BC has created a pilot project called The Export Navigator Pilot. In the Okanagan region this service is being delivered by Business Service Advisors based at Community Futures North Okanagan in Vernon.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop about the pilot hosted at Community Futures South Okanagan Similkameen in Penticton. One of the Advisors, Connie Viszlai, from the Vernon office, explained how the program works. With support from her or other Advisors, a small business can work their way through four specific stages for the best chances of export success.  These stages are called the Export Pathway.

In the first stage, Awareness, a business will go through a guided assessment to determine if they are ready to export, build an international network and complete a business plan or business expansion plan.  In stage 2, Planning and Validation, a business will identify their market and develop export, financial and operational plans to support their export strategy.  Stage 3 is the Initial Market Entry and Stage 4 is Market Development and Growth.

The best part is that businesses can determine where they already are on the pathway and enter at the point that makes sense for them.  As well, the Business Advisors work with international experts located in the various markets.  They know who a small business needs to be connected to at any particular stage on the pathway and can make the appropriate referrals so a business can succeed.

I am looking forward to seeing how this pilot will help our business members who are interested in export.  For more information contact Connie Viszlai in the Community Futures North Okanagan (Vernon) office at connive@futuresbc.com.


Small and mid-sized businesses to benefit from SIDIT’s Business Advisory Services

May 5, 2017

In March I had the opportunity to meet Luanne Chore, Executive Director of SIDIT – the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust. The Trust operates in the Southern Interior region of the province and the goal of the Trust (and their various programs) is to help grow and diversify the economy of the Southern Interior of British Columbia through economic development initiatives in 10 key sectors.

In September of 2016, SIDIT launched an innovative new program called Business Advisory Services and in April I was able to meet with the program manager, Ginny Becker.

Ginny explained that through the program, SIDIT is giving small and mid-sized businesses located in the Southern Interior region the levels of business competence, confidence and contacts needed to accelerate growth. SIDIT recognizes that, whether a newer or more established business, running a company can be a lonely experience where you often wish you had some expert advice available.

The Business Advisory Service has a group of professional business advisors available to help. These advisors have run businesses themselves so they know all the potential pitfalls. Business owners participating in the program will be able to access advisors in a variety of areas such as finance, operations, HR, scalability and more.

The program isn’t free, however the fees are subsidized by SIDIT from what a businessperson would normally have to pay for in-depth, one-on-one, professional advice. And judging from the case studies that are available to read on the website, entrepreneurs are finding great value from their investment in the services.

We will be sharing more about SIDIT’s Business Advisory Services with our Chamber members and would encourage other Chambers to do this as well. Find more information about the program and read their case studies at: siditbas.com.


Penticton riding candidates come to Summerland

April 20, 2017

Summerland’s All Candidates Forum drew a large number of local residents eager to hear the views of their riding’s candidates: Dan Ashton, Liberal Party; Connie Sahlmark, BC Green Party; and Tarik Sayeed, New Democratic Party.

The Summerland Chamber of Commerce and the Summerland Review co-hosted the event, which took place on Thursday, April 20 at Centre Stage.

At the forum the three candidates for Member of Legislative Assembly in the Penticton riding answered questions specifically related to Summerland, put to them by the moderator, local business owner, and Summerland Chamber of Commerce Board President, Erick Thompson.

Meet the candidates

Dan Ashton, Liberal Party

Today’s BC Liberals have acclaimed incumbent MLA Dan Ashton as the Party’s candidate in Penticton for the upcoming 2017 provincial election.

“My heart has always been in the Okanagan — it’s the reason I raised my family here,” says Ashton. “As your MLA, I believe in community partnerships, small business growth, investments in infrastructure, and sustainable social programs, and I intend to stay the course as a proud Okanagan resident.”

“We want our kids to have good paying jobs in the interior. We want them to choose to stay here — to build a successful career,” said Ashton. “Our communities are changing, no question, and there is still work to be done, but our future is exciting with a top performing economy and the best job creation record in the country.”

In helping to build partnerships at every level, Ashton has worked to deliver the $321 million Penticton Hospital project, $2 million to support the Penticton Downtown revitalization project, and new education funding for local school boards. He’s also helped to deliver investments in green infrastructure including $2.26 million for the Summerland water separation project, and $730,000 for the Summerland to Trout Creek trail.

Ashton is British Columbia’s Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Finance. He serves as a member of the Treasury Board, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, and was the Vice-Chair of the Cabinet Working Group on Core Review. Ashton has also been the Premier’s representative to the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) since September 2014. In 2015, the PNWER membership elected Ashton their Vice President and, in the coming year, he is slated to become the President.

Connie Sahlmark, BC Green Party

Connie Sahlmark has resided in the Penticton area for just over 13 years. Orginally from Saskatchewan, her grandfather Alexander Sahlmark was a veteran and later an MLA.

“My vision for the Okanagan is to develop jobs in other markets than the service industry,” says Sahlmark. ” We live in the land of peaches and beaches but there are challenges retaining members of the workforce. Benefits of engaging the emerging clean energy and tech sectors as the backbone of our economy not only provides well-paying jobs but will lower the cost of living.”

“Climate change is here but it does not have to be a negative. This can be a tremendous opportunity,” says Sahlmark. “And the best place to be when opportunity knocks is at the forefront. We have the natural resources, the workforce, education/training centers; all that is needed is the political will to seize it. And BC Greens under Andrew Weaver are committed to pursuing sustainable broadly-based economic prosperity.”

“I am not a career politician. My background is in sustainable building and clean energy. If elected MLA, I can provide a strong edge in promoting green technology and the Okanagan,” said Sahlmark.
Sahlmark has been a full-time student for the past three years at Okanagan College taking the Sustainable Construction Management Technologies program which focuses on green building, renewable energy and resource conservation. She also held a seat on the Okanagan College Education Council for three consecutive years.

Connie participated last year in two protests against commercialization of local public parks, volunteered with the Save Skaha Park Society, as well as writing editorials and attending council meetings to speak to the issue.

Tarik Sayeed, New Democratic Party

A technology innovator and business-owner, Tarik Sayeed founded Baby Taxi Inc., a tech start-up that created gesture recognition software to translate American Sign Language into text and audio. He believes that growing the high-tech sector is essential to building a strong, stable economy.

“I love living in the Okanagan. There are so many amazing people that are working hard every day to make their lives better. As a Penticton City Councillor, I have worked hard for the people in our community, ” said Sayeed.

“I’m proud to stand with John Horgan and the BC NDP because we’ll put hard-working people first. We’re committed to proper funding for our kids’ schools, making life more affordable, and building a sustainable economy with jobs that pay better and jobs that last. It’s time to build a better B.C. One that works for everybody. You can count on me to work for you,” said Sayeed.

Sayeed, originally from Bangladesh, has lived in Penticton with his wife Tahira since 2008. He has held several leadership roles in Information Technology with companies such as JumpTV, Comcast, and First West Credit Union. In 2011, IT World Canada recognized Sayeed for his work by choosing him for its prestigious IT Manager of the Year Award; he finished in the top ten.

In January 2014, Tarik was recognized as Penticton’s Top 40 Under 40 for “demonstrating excellence in community service, entrepreneurship, innovation, and business”. Sayeed is well known in international news streams and the tech community. He was a guest speaker in Toronto for the largest TEDx conference in Canada.

The general provincial election will take place on Tuesday, May 9, 2017.