City of Kelowna
A shining example of community life
The City of Kelowna, British Columbia, is part of the Regional District of Central Okanagan: a gorgeous landscape of Canadian country that includes Peachland, Lake Country, and the District of West Kelowna, with the City of Kelowna being the largest of the communities.
With a population of not more than 110,000, Kelowna is a draw for people from across the country, and internationally—people looking to escape the rat-race and live an enriched lifestyle.
City Manager Ron Mattiussi told CBJ in a recent interview that Kelowna isn’t drawing the same crowd it used to in the ‘70s and ‘80s. “Back then, Kelowna attracted retirees, and in the ‘80s and early ‘90s there was an influx of younger families and people who commuted to work,” Mattiussi explains. Now, Kelowna has seen a demographic shift to people looking for the lifestyle that Kelowna can provide.
“It is for the lake and the region that people come to Kelowna now,” Matiussi reasons, and it’s no wonder—in its majestic setting Kelowna reigns supreme for lifestyle-minded residents.
The Kelowna culture
The Kelowna culture is a unique one, and was built upon starting in the ‘70s when a committee was formed to study development of a cultural arts centre. Now there is a Mayor’s Task Force, a group dedicated to creating cultural policy, which according to the City, “gives form, support and provides direction for the cultural development.”
The Kelowna Cultural District is the hub of the city’s artistic and cultural activity, and has been built surrounding the centre of the Okanagan’s historical Fruit Packing Industry. There has been major investment and planning dedicated to enriching this part of the community, and now Kelowna draws thousands to its cultural hub. In fact, in 2004 Kelowna was awarded the “Cultural Capital of Canada” award by Canadian Heritage. This award helps to support the region’s activities meant to leverage the benefits of arts and culture in the community, including festivals, theatres and museums. The City is proud of its Kelowna Community Theatre, which has been operating for over forty-five years, and is a shining example of the type of lifestyle activity residents can enjoy.
Other cultural centres, supported by professional arts grant funding include: the Okanagan Heritage Museum, BC Orchard Industry Museum, BC Wine Industry Museum, and Okanagan Military Museum, the Kelowna Art Gallery and Rotary Centre for the Arts, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Kelowna, and the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art are supported through the professional arts grant funding.
Matiussi says that the “golden goose” for Kelowna residents is the “environment and community [they] live in.” Kelowna is rife with amenities, and its setting on the Okanagan Lake only adds to the attraction. Of course, having such a stellar city means that house prices are some of the highest in the country—matching with bigger mega-cities Vancouver and Toronto. “It’s hard to attract people to Kelowna because the house prices are high—but people still want to live here, the biggest driver, the best amenity, is the community itself,” he adds.
Kelowna boasts many amenities including Prospera Place, a 6,000-seat multi-purpose facility that is the home of the Kelowna Rockets (Western Hockey League), Waterfront Park, which is a showcase of the area with lagoons, an outdoor amphitheatre and a wooden boardwalk, and Stuart Park, located on the Waterfront Promenade.
These amenities help draw people from all over the world, including those who choose to operate a work-from-home business, which Matiussi says are very popular. “People bring their businesses with them,” he explains. The biggest challenge for Kelowna is to make the community more accessible for businesses.
The Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, the City of Kelowna, and the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce “spend a great deal of time working with various industries to remove roadblocks” to enable business to grow and expand, according to Matiussi. “Their job is to be the conduit back to the City.”
A diverse base of industry
Kelowna has recently been looking at increased business in medical fields, as much of the provincial government’s investment has been into medical facilities. “Kelowna will be the third biggest hospital complex for tertiary treatment,” in the province, Matiussi says. “We have a diverse base of industry, we’re probably the small home-based business capital of Canada.” Kelowna is also home to many businesses in technology and avionics, and the City is working to improve infrastructure to improve business development. Kelowna is the “service centre” for the Okanagan, and is the main marketing and distribution centre of the Okanagan Valley.
According to the City, it is “best known for forestry and the manufacture of boats, plastics, fibreglass, body armour and oil field equipment.” In addition, it is a flight industry hub, with the Kelowna international airport serving over one million passengers annually.
It’s clear that with the City’s enviable location and endless opportunities to grow business, Kelowna really is the place to live in B.C.—and CBJ is glad to be able to introduce this popular destination to the rest of Canada.