It’s one thing to sell a product—quite another to sell a region.
But that’s Corie Griffiths job.
As executive director of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, Griffiths leads a team that, as the title of her organization suggests, is focused on the economic development of the entire Central Okanagan. And that not only means being the primary resource for businesses that are already located in the region, it also means attracting new businesses to the area.
“It’s easier now than it was 10 years ago because there are so many opportunities here now,” said Griffiths, who has been with the COEDC for 12 years.
Pointing to advantages such as the Kelowna’s busy and growing airport, research and development opportunities through UBC Okanagan, trades training at Okanagan College, a growing tech sector, the well-established agriculture and wine industries here and a growing population base brings not only more people to the region but also more ideas and entrepreneurs, she said this area has a lot to offer.
But, that being said, there are challenges. The phenomenal growth of the Central Okanagan in the last 20 years has created quality of life issues such as air and water quality issues, housing issues and the requirement for improvements to transportation infrastructure.
Th Central Okanagan is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country and while it has always been desirable from a lifestyle perspective, Griffiths said a new entrepreneurial start-up system here is benefiting from significant supports offered by institutions like the university, the college and the airport.
“We have support, infrastructure and accessibility regardless of sector,” said Griffiths.
Last year building permit values cross the region were well above what they were in the boom years prior to the recession at the end of of the last decade and there was a 63 per cent jump in housing starts.
“Many see this area as somewhere they can work hard, play hard, getting in the ground floor early and have an opportunity to shape innovation,” she said.
There’s no doubt that helps make Griffiths job easier when promoting the area to the rest of Canada and the world. But the Central Okanagan is not alone in trying to attract businesses and investors. Easier is not the same as easy. There is competition out there and the Central Okanagan can find itself competing with much larger centres that, based on pure size, have a lot more to offer.
“But I can tell you the COEDC punches above its weight,” said Griffiths, pointing to five different recognition awards the organization received last year alone for its programs, awards at the provincial, federal and international level.
Operating both on its own and in partnership with other organizations, the COEDC often looks to leverage the resources of other bodies, at the provincial and federal level and partner up to promote the region.
That allows us to craft and direct our messages in more strategic way,” she said.
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