B.C.’ s new jobs, trade and technology minister, Bruce Ralston, came to Kelowna Friday to “take the temperature” of the technology sector in the Okanagan.
And what he found was a sector that is healthy and growing.
“It’s pretty inspiring from what I saw,” said Ralston after meeting with a number of Accelerate Okanagan executives and discussing industry-related issues with tech company representatives in a round-table meeting.
The entire tech industry in the valley now contributes an estimated $1.3 billion to the Okanagan’s economy, including direct revenues of $1.02 billion generated by the the 633 technology companies in the region. Those companies employed 7,600 in 2015, according to a report done last year by Accelerate Okanagan.
Overall, B.C. now has an estimated 100,000 tech sector jobs.
Ralston said his job as minister is to work with the industry to help it grow, and he said while he heard optimism in his meetings in Kelowna Friday, he also heard about some of the challenges local companies face.
“There were the traditional challenges of (finding) talent, trade and markets,” he said, adding he was happy to reach out to the industry to hear what’s working and what isn’t.
Ralston said while the Lower Mainland has built an international reputation for it’s tech sector—especially in the area of computer gaming—the sector is not just confined to the south-east corner of this province.
He said in addition to the Okanagan, there are growing tech sectors in Nanaimo and Victoria on Vancouver Island, as well as Kamloops and Prince George in the Interior. Kamloops was recently recognized as a top city for start-ups and Prince George has an accelerator similar to Accelerate Okanagan up and running.
And Ralston said it is not just the tech sector itself that is benefiting from the growth of the industry in B.C. Many of the province’s traditional, resource-based industries are also benefiting, as innovative advances help them adapt to new realities.
While in Kelowna, Ralson also toured the new Innovation Centre downtown and visited the UBC Okanagan campus.
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