COLUMN: Time to focus on economic growth

Summer is a bustling time in Summerland. Lots of tourists from all points walking downtown, filling our beaches and taking in the sights.

Summer is a bustling time in Summerland.

Lots of tourists from all points walking downtown, filling our beaches and taking in the sights we all take for granted.

As I was headed to the Beanery for my coffee one fine Summerland morning, I encountered several people from Washington state.

They remarked how cute our downtown was and asked why so many buildings were vacant and in poor repair.

I didn’t really have an answer for them but it did make me notice how many vacancies there were.

For example, the old Medicine Centre building. I didn’t see it in its prime, but I am told that the building was kept well from the outside and maintained to the highest standard.

Walking by it now, it looks like its best days are well behind it.

The windows are filthy, the awning is tired and the entrance is dirty. Weeds and trees have taken over in the alley.

This is a prominent building in our downtown.

In January of this year, it was announced with some fanfare that the mayor was putting together a task force focused on the local economy.

The mayor chairs the task force and its goal is to come up with “actionable results” to advance our local economy.

So far, no actionable ideas have been submitted to council for consideration.

In fact, outside of a couple of mentions in the mayor’s report to council in January and February, no task force activity has been recorded.

Should we send out a search party?

Meanwhile, the Rotary Club members have taken matters into their own hands with the Sunday Market.

Kudos to them for their initiative.

Our own mayor and council seem to be content punishing our established economic drivers, like the Kettle Valley Steam Railroad, by increasing their tax burden.

Perhaps that should be the topic of the next task force meeting.

Ideas are at the core of any economic development plan. So let’s have a look at our closest neighbours and their ideas.

In Penticton, they came up with economic investment zones that deferred property tax in exchange for improvements or investment.

The results are tangible and obvious to anyone.

Peachland is quite a sight as tourists and locals mingle in their downtown and take advantage of the walkway.

Local restaurants and boutiques are full of customers.

Not many vacancies there.

They had a plan.

So where are the ideas for Summerland?

Are we content to let our downtown dwindle and our lakeshore become largely unusable?

Please tell me we have more than a few clever videos in the hopper!

The opportunity is out there – as the Lower Mainland becomes harder and harder to afford, I’m sure entrepreneurs will be looking to move.

What can we offer them to come here with their business, instead of West Kelowna or Penticton?

We are one of the few communities without a glutton of franchise businesses. That is a credit to those local business owners that do a great job.

We need to build on that.

It all starts with an idea that generates tangible results.

Rob Murphy is the sales manager at the Summerland Review.