Community spirit can grow local economy
The Kelowna Apple Triathlon is one of many events hosted by local businesses and community organizations draws in record numbers of visitors including potential new residents and business owners alike.
In just over a century, Kelowna has grown from a small agricultural community composed of 600 people to a culturally diverse urban community with a population of 106,000, with the total population of the Central Okanagan Regional District, the area of this study, consisting of 185,443.
Often thought of as a resort or “party” destination by young persons, and alternatively, as a retirement community for seniors, Kelowna and it’s surrounding area offers just about something for everyone.
The Okanagan Region, offer a unique opportunity for today’s individuals, families and businesses to choose a healthy, active and financially prosperous lifestyle that is unique amongst other western growing cities.
According to Kelowna Mayer Walter Gray, “Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Kelowna are Canada’s fastest growing cities. Businesses are moving out west and as a vibrant city, Kelowna has the opportunity to draw in more than just tourist dollars. It’s actually a false belief that it is more expensive to live and work in Kelowna than other cities, our property taxes, utilities, food and other essentials cost half of that in Saskatoon.”
According to a recent study conducted by InterVistas, over 1.5 million visitors came through the Kelowna area in 2011, injecting over $840 million in additional revenue split amongst individual employment, local businesses, municipality, and the provincial and federal government.
While many visitors are drawn to the Okanagan for its beautiful sunshine, pristine lake country, wineries and recreational activities, it is local community and business events such as the Pushor Mitchell Kelowna Apple Triathlon, BMO Marathon, Charity Golf Tournaments such as that hosted recently by City Councilman Colin Basran, or the upcoming Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) sponsored event “Power In Partners” hosted by Fred Sarkari, later this year.
Business and community events such as these offer visitors who may not have otherwise considered coming, an opportunity to experience Kelowna under different circumstances than just a pure beach or family camping vacation.
“Kelowna really loves its visitors. And, we work to deserve return visits. Many people choose to make Kelowna their home and their business headquarters as a result of initial positive vibes about this great city,” said Gray.
One such local Kelowna business seems to be more than aware of the impact that community involvement has on the local economy as well as their bottom line. Total Office Furnishings, a business whose logo seems to be everywhere by consistently promoting community and local business events.
They are amongst many local businesses showing support from everything such as Chamber events, golf tournaments, volunteering their entire staff for the Apple Triathlon this past weekend and have partnered up as a primary sponsor for the upcoming Power In Partners event.
Principal owners Carmen Sparg and Roy Collins see the benefit in promoting, partnering and volunteering for community events such as these which help to draw visitors and new businesses into the Okanagan and fuel its economy.
In a recent conversation with Sparg, who is also a member of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, she explained: “The success of our business is largely attributed to the development of the partnerships we gain through our community involvement. This has in turn, afforded us the ability to be here for the long term, and enables us to give back to our community by assisting new start up businesses to get established, as well as participating in local community non-profit funding endeavors.”
There is significant impact both socially and economically when we get involved in our community events. Community spirit not only creates an environment that draws visitors in, but builds business partnerships that make Kelowna a viable place for businesses to flourish.
Fred Sarkari, host of the upcoming Power In Partners event in October says his event is created for just this purpose. “This (event) is all about the entire community. The whole event is to show how if we all worked together, we will not only grow as individuals and businesses, but as a full community,” Sarkari said.
Richard Montgomery, president of the Kelowna Apple Triathlon Society, couldn’t agree more. “The Kelowna Apple Triathlon brings in approximately 2000 athletes and spectators to the Kelowna area and injects approximately $9 million into the local economy," said Montgomery. "That contribution is significant considering the entire event is put on by almost 800 volunteers, spending over 10,000 man hours. If it were not for these volunteers and over 50 local business partners supporting the event, the cost would be nearly $300,000.”
Whether as an individual, family or business the importance and impact of volunteering, promoting or partnering in our community is essential to Kelowna’s growth and significantly impacts our role as more than just a popular tourist destination but as a major player on Canada’s economic stage.