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Traditionally, the Okanagan has been recognized on the world stage for its wineries, agriculture, recreation and lakes - but things are changing. With a booming tech industry and the ultimate climate for entrepreneurs, the Okanagan is now being spotlighted for innovation.
Located between three powerhouses – Vancouver, Calgary and Seattle, the Okanagan serves as a launchpad for businesses craving the Okanagan lifestyle, but also as a meeting place for executive retreats and international conferences. Captivating the attention of innovators and decision makers, the Okanagan has become a hub for economic activity. The Okanagan truly has it all and everyone is noticing.
In 2016, Kelowna was ranked the number one city in Canada to start and grow a business by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. CFIB conducted a national study, comparing major and mid-sized cities across Canada in which the criterion was based upon business start-up rates, high levels of optimism, local government tax, regulatory policies and success in operations.
The Okanagan is home to big-scale manufacturing companies like Whitewater West, the world’s largest manufacturer of fiberglass and waterslides and KF Aerospace which specializes in a wide range of aviation services including maintenance and modifications. Agricultural businesses such as BC Tree Fruits and Soilmate have changed the way farmers do business by creating collective groups that advocate for locally grown produce and connect farmers to a range of markets. Agriculture and manufacturing have dominated the Okanagan’s economy in the past, however new sectors are taking over.
Corie Griffiths, Director at Economic Development Commission, Regional District of Central Okanagan states “With the fastest growing tech hub in British Columbia, Kelowna and the Okanagan are not only attracting entrepreneurs and start-ups ready to scale, but as a hybrid urban/resort destination, it’s become an inspiring meeting place for tech entrepreneurs to network with industry influencers at by-invitation executive retreats and conferences each year.”
According to a study commissioned by Accelerate Okanagan there are now 693 technology businesses operating in the Okanagan, employing more than 12,470 employees. Of these companies, many are home-grown including BananaTag, Yeti Farm and Piscine Energetics. Raghwa Gopal, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan states "They’re proof of what those working in the Okanagan tech sector have long known: big things are happening here, and we’re just getting started. The Okanagan is ripe with potential for entrepreneurs of all kinds.”
Between wineries, golf courses, lake-life and farm-to-table cuisine, residents and visitors alike know the lifestyle in the Okanagan is unapparelled which has helped attract and retain top talent and thought-leaders.
Secure-Rite deviates from the norm by upcycling shipping containers for a range of innovative projects. Recently, Secure-Rite modified two shipping containers to build a specialized off-grid electrical workshop, engineered to be heli-lifted to a Yukon mountaintop and are using upcycled containers to build a soundproof, modern-industrial designed boardroom.
We have become a region bursting with inspiring people who are doing things differently which is putting Kelowna and surrounding areas on the map globally. We can’t wait to see what’s next!