Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray’s quick trip to Scottsdale yesterday to investigate the possibility of a future business relationship between his city and its Arizona counterpart, has already yielded its first result.
Contacted in Scottsdale yesterday afternoon, Gray told the Capital News that at a meeting with city and business representatives there, it was decided to hold two symposiums—one in Kelowna in August and another in Scottsdale next February—to introduce officials to each city.
“It will be like a home and home series,” said Gray, stressing the relationship being investigated will be strictly business and not a sister-city relationship such as the cultural and social ones Kelowna has with Kasugai, Japan and Veendam in the Netherlands.
Gray said in addition to the meeting with Scottsdale Mayor Jim Laine, he also attended a meeting organized by the Kelowna-Scottsdale Business Council, a group of Scottsdale businesspeople, some with ties to Canada. Present at the meeting was the Canadian consul and senior trade representative whose area includes Arizona.
Gray said he came away from the meting encouraged by the reception he, Central Okanagan economic development commissioner Robert Fine, and city councillors Andre Blanleil and Colin Basran received and was pleased to see the two cities have a lot in common.
“This would all be about business but often the way you make someone think about business is by familiarizing them with your area, and that is often done first by being a tourist,” said Gray. So, to the end, he said when the representatives from Scottsdale come here, they will be shown many of the recreational attractions this area offers such as golf courses and wineries.
Gray noted as an example of the familiarity many here have with the Scottdale area, 55 per cent of the residents of the Gallagher’s Canyon golf resort area are “snowbirds” with 65 per cent of them spending time in the Phoenix/Scotdale area of Arizona every winter.
One of the people spearheading the proposed city-to-city relationship is local businessman Brad Field, who works with Armorworks, a company that has operations here and in Scottsdale.
Gray said the company, which recently won a multi-milion military equipment contract, has about 500 workers in the Scottsdale area.
Gray added that one of the issues that needs to be addressed in order to create any “sustainable” relationship is a more frequent airline connection between the two communities.
Currently, Westjet offer service between Kelowna and Scottsdale during the winter months only.
Gray said the Scottsdale mayor, who used to work for an airline, is familiar with the issue and said in addition to possibly more flights by Westjet, another, as-of-yet unidentified U.S. airline may be interested providing a year-round connection between the two cities.
“I came down here with an open mind and came away very encouraged by the meetings,” said Gray, who flies back to Kelowna today.