British Columbia Regional Highlight Series: Thompson-Okanagan

British Columbia Regional Highlight Series: Thompson-Okanagan

July 7, 2020 Posted by Abby Pollen

The Thompson-Okanagan development region is the third-most populous in the province after the Mainland-Southwest and Vancouver Island-Coast development regions. It is the home of Interior Salish Indigenous peoples including the St’át’imc (Lillooet), Secwepemc (Shuswap), Nlaka'pamux (Thompson) and Syilx (Okanagan). The Thompson-Okanagan includes five regional districts, 31 municipalities, and 29 First Nations.

Historically, the Thompson-Okanagan economy was largely based on forestry, mining, and agriculture. While these industries remain important today, they are now part of a highly diverse economy dominated by service industries that have expanded with the region’s population and tourism growth. The health care, trade, construction, and accommodation and food services industries were the region’s top employers in 2018. Tourism alone contributes over $1 billion annually to the local economy, in addition to contributions by viticulture and wine sales. The region is also a major centre for post-secondary education that includes UBC Okanagan, Okanagan College, Thomson Rivers University, and Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, which have a combined enrolment of approximately 33,000 students and employs over 6,000 staff.

Renowned for its sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, year-round recreational activities and relaxed lifestyle, the region is one of remarkable geographical diversity. It is home to Canada's only desert, as well as many mountains, grazing terrains, large and small lakes and rivers. This beautiful playground brings tourists from all over the globe.

The Central Okanagan has a diverse economy with prime sectors including agriculture, tourism, retail trade, manufacturing, forestry and construction. The warm climate makes it an important agricultural centre and highly attractive to tourists. Current growth industries include high technology, film, viticulture and wine production. Improved transportation links to the Lower Mainland (Kelowna International Airport) have led to significant growth and made Kelowna the largest trading centre between greater Vancouver and Alberta. With much in the way of available business resources, Kelowna, Peachland, West Kelowna, the Westbank First Nation and the District of Lake Country are ideal destinations for business start-ups, expansion and relocation.

The North Okanagan cities of Vernon and Armstrong have ongoing public investments to ensure the region is a desirable place to locate. The City of Vernon recently invested in a major hospital expansion, library, secondary school, new ice arena and the acquisition of the Okanagan Rail Trail. Armstrong offers robust business infrastructure without sacrificing the small-town ambiance that gives the community so much charm. The region is encouraging a strong business presence and most local communities have launched initiatives to ensure businesses stay competitive.

The Columbia-Shuswap District offers the infrastructure and transportation of long-standing forestry and mining developments with the low cost of living and working that help fledging businesses mature. The District includes the communities of Golden, Revelstoke, Salmon Arm and Sicamous.

One of the most pleasant areas in Canada is nestled in the Okanagan Valley, known as the Okanagan-Similkameen district. The valley is the northern extension of the Colorado River basin and forms a temperate desert area in Canada. The district has become a prime residential and business relocation area due to the gentle climate, quality of life, magnificent scenery, recreational opportunities and its progressive attitude towards economic development. For example, Osoyoos' Buena Vista Industrial Park features low-cost serviced lots available for purchase by private owners and the ability to include a residential living space within industrial projects. World class manufacturers have developed in Penticton, the region’s biggest city. The low cost of business, affordable housing prices, competitive property tax rates and low labour costs make this region a great place to do business.

Kamloops accounts for 75% of the Thompson-Nicola regional district's population. It is the third largest city in British Columbia outside of the Lower Mainland and the transportation hub of B.C.’s Southern Interior. The city and surrounding area offer an abundance of transportation advantages, including the Kamloops Airport (YKA). One of the fastest growing regional airports, YKA provides air service throughout North America with connections to virtually every part of the world. Over 25 trucking and transport companies are based there at the intersection of Western Canada’s four major highways. With major urban centres and the Port of Vancouver a short haul away, Kamloops is an ideal location for warehousing, distribution, industrial and technology centres.

Located at the intersection of the key major transportation routes in the province, the City of Merritt offers access to efficient transportation and distribution, training facilities, a youthful labour force and an urban lifestyle in a country setting. It is an ideal location for investments in warehousing, distribution, transportation, and supply chain management.

You can also visit our communities page or contact the regional expert. Stay tuned for future blogs on other regions of British Columbia, or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter for regular updates.

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