Despite the public perception of slow economic recovery, City of Vernon officials insist activity is moving ahead at a steady pace.
In a report to council, economic development manager Kevin Poole says $28.3 million in total building permits were issued from January to May, up from $20 million during the same period in 2014.
“We’ve seen some strong numbers for the first part of the year,” he said.
And when single-family units are looked at specifically, there have been 47 units at $19.7 million so far this year, compared to 35 units at $12.6 million during the first five months of 2013.
Major commercial/industrial projects since last year include a $750,000 building permit for Okanagan Spirits’ new distillery on 24th Street and a $500,000 permit for Central Animal Clinic on Kalamalka Lake Road. An April 27, 2015 permit was handed out for a 27th Street medical clinic for $575,000.
The Tim Hortons, which is under construction next to Beairsto Elementary School, has a permit value of $1.2 million.
But overshadowing all of these projects is a $29 million building permit for seven buildings covering 120,000-square-feet at the B.C. Hydro compound on Kalamalka Lake Road.
“That includes 83,000-square-feet of regional office. It’s a significant investment,” said Poole, adding that construction is expected to begin this year and be completed some time in 2017.
On the tourism front, the city’s two per cent hotel room tax generated $535,756 in revenue in 2014, up from $438,496 in 2013.
The tourism department’s total 2015 budget is $776,587, with $600,000 coming from hotel tax and the remainder coming from city taxes.
Poole estimates that tourism generates about $100 million in economic activity in Vernon annually.
And Poole believes tourism’s impact could grow as national media focuses on what the community has to offer.
“It’s third-party verification. It really helps readers and viewers get influenced,” he said.
After a writer visited Vernon, a three-page spread ran in WestJet’s magazine.
“The advertising equivalency is $33,000,” said Poole.
The Globe and Mail, CTV and Western Living magazine have also shown an interest in Vernon recently.
In terms of creating job opportunities, the city is working with the Regional District of North Okanagan to identify land that can be used for industrial uses.
“We want to bring more land on stream and serviced land,” said Poole.
The city is also reviewing zoning to encourage technological businesses to have a presence in the downtown core.
“They (tech sector) like the coffee shops and restaurants,” said Poole.
The economic development advisory committee is currently focused on a number of action teams, including finding ways to develop a health and wellness sector in Vernon.
“It could serve the growing seniors demographic we have,” said Poole.