Krista Mallory is the manager of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission. (Maria Cihlar - photo)

Krista Mallory: Steering the Okangan’s economy into the future

She is a business development officer for the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission

Editor’s note: In 2020 it should be no surprise that more and more woman hold positions of power. Whether it’s business, politics, sports or the non-profit sector, woman continue to achieve new milestones. This story is part of a series of stories highlighting 16 women in Kelowna who are leaders in their fields. You can read all of their stories in our annual publication called Women in Business in the Feb. 28 issue of Kelowna Capital News.

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Leaving the prairies in the rear view mirror, Krista Mallory set her sights on the mountains and the lakes of the Okanagan to start a new adventure.

Hailing from the oil capital of Canada, also known as Calgary, the 34-year-old is no stranger to a growing business community. Which is why she looked to Kelowna to obtain her economics degree at UBC Okanagan.

After settling into the new home in the interior, Mallory took a position with the Kelowna-based Women’s Enterprise Society of B.C. before being hired as the business development officer of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission (COEDC).

Today she is the manager of the organization, in a shake up that saw former executive director Corie Griffiths take on a bigger role with the Central Okanagan Regional District as its director of economic development and bylaw services.

While Griffiths will continue to oversee the commission, Mallory will lead the all-female team of four full-time staff at the commission on a day-to-day basis.

And, she said she is excited by the challenge.

“We feel like all the pieces of the local economy are coming together,” said Mallory, pointing to the region’s strong entrepreneurial spirit, its education and research sector as well as its growing industries such as tech, wine-making and manufacturing.

“We really see the growth.”

While the economy may be doing well, she said there continues to be some nagging challenges.

Like her predecessors, Mallory and her team face issues such as a shortage of trained labour, high housing costs, the need for infrastructure improvements and secondary job opportunities for spouses of the business people and investors that this area is looking to attract.

As Mallory is quick to explain, the COEDC does not create jobs, it helps create the business climate where jobs can be created both by the private and public sector. While the Central Okanagan is an attractive place to be, it also needs to address those challenges if it wants to bring in more business investment.

Working closely with her counterparts up and down the valley, she said the key to creating a strong and vibrant economy is not about creating competition, but instead creating a business environment that helps everyone succeed.

Helping to fuel the entire region’s entrepreneurial growth is the region’s steady population growth.

The most recent population estimates put the Central Okanagan’s population at 217,000 people, with another 60,000 people expected to come to the area by 2036.

Despite that, experts predict no net growth in the home-grown work force over the next 10 years, so those coming here will help make up the work force needed for a growing economy.

That is where the COEDC comes in.

“Finding and retaining staff remains the number one issue for employers,” said Mallory.

So it will be up to her and her team to work with exiting and new businesses, governments and others to help make that happen.

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