In the days and weeks leading up to the Oct. 20 election for municipal council, the Summerland Review is asking questions of the candidates.
This week’s question: What would you do, if elected, to strengthen Summerland’s local economy?
Having launched, operated, and sold two successful Summerland businesses, I know what it is like to be an entrepreneur here. I feel that the success of a business is due, in large part, to good planning and sound business practices.
However, I also know there are ways council can support Summerland entrepreneurs. Council recognizes that the arts and culture sector benefits Summerland in significant ways.
This sector contributes to our local economy in three key ways: it keeps local expenditures in Summerland; it attracts tourism dollars; and it contributes to the Summerland lifestyle we all enjoy.
Also, as mayor, I will ensure that the District continues to work diligently to ensure the Okanagan Agriculture Innovation Centre is located here. The proposed Centre opens up new opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs in this historically important sector.
There are innovative ways to strengthen the local economy.
For example: Develop a downtown neighbourhood plan that incorporates mixed-use zoning; review the chamber of commerce contract to ensure we are getting the best use of district funding; engage with downtown landlords to discuss a program to encourage leasehold improvements.
In order to strengthen Summerland’s economy, there are building blocks to having a progressive, welcoming community. More increased options in housing for our workforce, youth, families and senior’s wishing to downsize.
Show the community, developers and the construction industry that we are open for business by setting time frames for permits, streamlining the process.
Demonstrating a service-oriented administration. Improve our roads; downtown revitalization, make downtown a hub; inventory properties that could be developed and work to market them.
Support our tourism-build up our cycling and hiking opportunities and profile, support our thriving wineries, cideries, the arts and heritage, local retail, the KVR Steam Railway and Summerland Sweets, our wellness community.Market our area attributes to entrepreneurs, the high tech industry, creation of an agricultural innovation centre.
Encourage a business innovation working space allowing for collaboration, idea sharing and social interaction.
This could be a business opportunity for a local entrepreneur.
Capitalize on our Highway 97 location, our character and heritage as well as the benefits of our beautiful surroundings.
Support our local groups in their efforts to improve and celebrate our community.
Summerland is defined economically by its land base. While we may be large geographically for population, most of our land is obviously farmland. However, the thing that attracts new businesses to occupy the industrial land we do have left is the quality of life in Summerland.
Furthermore, and I have said this again and again, retirees are a business. They are a good business in that their spending continues steadily through other economic ups and downs, and they are more prone to shop locally.
As with other industries, our quality of life is what attracts retirees, therefore, if we work on all the aspects of Summerland that make it a great place to live, such as the new Cultural Centre, hiking and biking trails and the improvements to Giant’s Head Park, the natural spin-off from making the town better for the local residents is attracting new business.
Summerland is an ideal location to live and raise a family.
We are starting to see a demographic change and in order to keep attracting new people, we need to keep improving our community.
Council can help to attract and retain people by introducing opportunities for families and children with things like new childcare partnerships, and increased recreation program.ing and park/play facilities.
Council can also help improve the local economy through good policies and bylaws that will encourage smart developments and sustainable growth.
Continuing to focus on what we do well in our community (e.g. agriculture, tourism/festivals, recreation/trails) will help keep Summerland growing in the right direction.
To strengthen its economy, Summerland has to make it more attractive for people to move here.
The shortage of all types of housing, especially in the central part of town, is a major problem. We need condos, townhouses, rental apartments, and seniors housing to accommodate both young families and senior citizens.
We also have to build on our strengths in agriculture, tourism and health care.
As a councillor, it is important to seek feedback from people and to get the business community involved in mapping out a strategy to revitalize the downtown area where many improvements could be made.
City hall has to offer more business-friendly service, such as issuing building permits in a timely fashion.
The waterfront area near the Summerland Yacht Club in Lower Town, for example, has great potential to attract visitors if it can be properly developed.
We need to take an ‘asset-based’ approach to economic development and build on the community’s strengths and resources. Agriculture and agri-business are the backbones of the local economy and the Summerland Research Centre is right in our backyard. We’re in a great position to take advantage of innovative practices and technologies to improve existing agricultural products and processes as well as create new ones.
The current council has been working with the provincial government and other stakeholders to develop a business plan for an Okanagan Agriculture Innovation Centre to be based in Summerland. The next council will need to continue this work and get the centre up and running.
Otherwise, the single most important action council can take to strengthen our local economy is to replenish depleted municipal reserves and adopt a long-term financial plan to upgrade public services and infrastructure, including roads and recreation facilities.
The correlation between quality of life and economic growth is well documented. People want to live and businesses want to locate in a place that offers a full range of amenities. They’re attracted to efficient public works, recreation and cultural opportunities, green spaces, a vibrant downtown, housing options, good schools, public safety, etc.
Once elected to the council, I will lead a culture shift that the council members and staff work for the taxpayers, not the other way around. These positions exist to ensure the continued growth of Summerland, not to stifle economic development.
Effective and efficient policies leading to economic growth are the keywords I will use to affect change. Meeting with the chief administrative officer and council, I will reorganize the staff and find the best person for a newly created Director of Office Innovation and Collaboration. This position will prioritize city planning, development and engineering services with timelines that support not only business growth but also private property improvements.
Cutting bureaucracy around permits and licences will bring revenue to Summerland through initial permit fees and taxes but, more importantly, will also bring sustainable economic growth.
As new businesses open, current businesses expand and improve, and private property owners renovate their homes, new jobs are created and our talented trades have new accounts.
If you look at neighbouring communities in the Okanagan, you see growth because word on the street is that Summerland is closed for business.
With my proposed effective and efficient policies, we can bring new business to the empty stores, build on empty lots and improve old buildings.
To strengthen the local economy, I would work collaboratively with municipal council and staff to establish a prioritized plan to repair failing infrastructure; roads, water and power; ensure there was an extensive review of our processes for building permit applications by publishing a procedure checklist to shorten timelines and help homeowners and developers navigate through the red tape; encourage more growth in the Bentley Road and Logie Road Industrial Parks to create more jobs. There have been only two new buildings in the past seven years; collaborate with other other levels of government, societies and church groups to promote multigenerational housing models.
I would ensure city administration plays a proactive role in facilitating the important ‘Wharton Street’ Development. As the sales proposal may introduce 88 much needed new residential rental units with some ground floor commercial with the developer having until March 2020 to move forward with the development permit I will do what is in my power to move this developer from the application stage to the groundbreaking stage.
I will advocate and facilitate affordable housing, for example, city staff through the consultation with the public may create zoning amendments to allow the inclusion of micro suites under 30 metres squared where the developer would not be required to pay development cost charges for those units as outlined in the provincial legislation.
I will fight to attract and retain small business. We have witnessed the closure of businesses in our community with a noticeable exodus from the downtown core. A municipal downtown plan needs the strategic focus on how to increase economic development in the community. Mayor and council need to facilitate and align priorities that can build and create a vibrant and active downtown presence which allows our current and future businesses to prosper during and especially outside of the tourist season.
Penticton is at capacity in their industrial park and we have available space in ours so our Economic Development team needs to be empowered to attract businesses to fill empty spots.
We have a wonderful agricultural base and lots of opportunity to attract people to existing parks and trail systems so eco-tourism is coming and access will need to be managed carefully.
We need to manage our growth and each development opportunity should be given consideration.
Summerland is a very attractive location and everyone should have fair hearing on their proposal.
Council can create policies and support initiatives that make Summerland attractive to business owners.
Evaluate the district’s contract (which expires next year) with the Summerland chamber to determine if the “economic development” component is effective; continue to review and update Summerland’s policies and bylaws relating to business and development to ensure they are relevant and user-friendly; prioritize infrastructure improvements, most notably, upgrading our roads; develop and implement a downtown revitalization plan, work with the Summerland chamber to attract more entrepreneurs by showcasing the lifestyle Summerland has to offer.(With the internet and nearby transportation corridors, Summerland is an ideal location to start a business.); continue to work with the B.C. government, local industry and the community to build a Summerland agricultural innovation centre; continue to be an advocate for our town, both in person and online.
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