Gerding: Steering a new business course to attract entrepreneurs

Like a lot of people who live on the Prairies, David Church was attracted to Kelowna because of the Okanagan lifestyle.

Like a lot of people who live on the Prairies, David Church was attracted to Kelowna because of the Okanagan lifestyle.

But what also brought Church here is a challenge that could prove fruitful in helping move our valley’s small business sector forward in a significant way. Church is assisting in the task of helping to develop a three-year strategic plan based on a series of principles for action to encourage entrepreneurism in the Okanagan Valley.

Those principles were generated by the participants in a roundtable forum held earlier this month in Kelowna. They will be presented in a three-year action plan that all municipalities in the valley will be called upon to buy into.

Church has extensive experience in bringing together divergent groups to work towards a common cause. After working for 12 years as the director of education for the Manitoba Association of School Trustees, Church went back to school to complete his master’s degree and focus on what he calls human systems intervention—bringing people together in adversarial positions to adopt common decisions for the collective good of everyone.

Church sees the Okanagan Valley as an untapped gem for business development, for marrying people’s entrepreneurial ideas with the venture capital needed to make them a reality.

“It’s really about the region and the valley being seen as an economy, and not letting the political divisions within it, which tend to be counter-productive, not allow that economy to flourish,” Church said.

“Lots of smaller government entities can make it harder for economic growth to flow, to come up with solutions to problems that arise.

“The good news is the roundtable forum and the strategies we are prototyping here that have come out of that can help accelerate the ability of groups to work together to solve problems in innovative new ways.”

Church will have his hands full given that regional attempts to generate economic growth have largely sputtered over the last decade, as evidenced by the lack of manufacturing growth in this region.

So rather than relying on civic-government promoted big-ticket projects to garner attention, the better route is to start at the grassroots level, to bring like-minded people together who can help inspire economic growth perhaps on a smaller but more solid footing.

While the Central Okanagan has some calling it Silicon Valley North, the reality is not everyone today who might fall under that economic technology sector are working off the same page in trying to move forward.

However the action plan strategy unfolds, hopefully it can help halt the exodus of job-seeking young people from the Central Okanagan. Nothing else done in the past decade has worked yet.


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