The high-tech sector is on a trajectory to continue to expand its economic influence in the Okanagan, says the head of the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Michael Denham was in Kelowna on Thursday to visit the Okanagan Innovation Centre and speak with local entrepreneurs.
While the message about high-tech growth and expansion tends to circulate around available venture capital access for business development, Denham said BDC is conscious of those needs right across Canada but remains bullish in particular on this region’s business prospects.
“We have offices here at the innovation centre and 20 people working here full-time. We have made a major investment here with almost 400 clients we are working with,” said Denham.
BDC is Canada’s only bank exclusively dedicated to servicing entrepreneurs, working with 250 tech entrepreneurs across the province with close to $600 million in financing and capital committed to their ventures.
Denham says the economic impact numbers reflect on how high-tech is becoming an increasingly important part of B.C.’s economic development: Gross domestic product growth is forecast at 3.1 per cent compared to 2.8 per cent for the rest of Canada; the high-tech industry is worth an estimated $5 billion and amounts to 12 per cent of Canada’s technology industry; more than 100,000 people work in software development, advanced technology and tech research; and BDC loans for $795 million have been approved for B.C./Yukon in fiscal 2017, a 41 per cent increase over the previous year.
Denham says the innovation centre will serve as a major catalyst for the Okanagan high-tech industry’s growth moving forward.
“That’s why we are here. It’s a physical place where high-tech entrepreneurs can come together, share ideas and work out problems they face with each other, and it sends a message about the impact this industry has on the local economy that otherwise may not be so visible,” he said.
“There is a sense of growth potential and optimism that I picked up from talking with entrepreneurs here.”
While Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal may be in an economic high-tech sector league of their own, Denham says the incubator potential for the Okanagan is vibrant.
He cited two attributes this region has working in its favour—existence of the innovation centre and a cohesiveness within the high-tech sector community where people work together, help and support each other.
“That kind of support is very important when you are trying to get a high-tech start-up off the ground and all of the challenges that presents,” he said.