With the recent launch of Pacific Coastal’s Okanagan-Kootenay connector flight that links Kelowna and Cranbrook, the two cities are looking to create some new initiatives.
The new flight makes Kelowna a 45-minute flight away and so presents some potential for innovative opportunities.
On Wednesday, representatives from the Kelowna region and the East Kootenay met to discuss some ideas.
Kevin Weaver, economic development manager for the City of Cranbrook, highlighted some of the initiatives from a regional perspective. Representatives from Cranbrook, the City of Kimberley, the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce and other organizations met with counterparts from Kelowna.
“This came quite suddenly and we only had a couple of hours,” he said. The meeting was a sort of brainstorming opportunity on how to leverage the new air service to bring about new opportunities.
For tourism, there was discussion about developing better packaging at both ends.
“It’s about getting more traffic going back and forth, because we do have a lot of residents in both areas that have activities but don’t spend the time,” Weaver said.
Kelowna is also a hub airport that has direct flights to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix, among others.
The University of British Columbia in the Okanagan (UBCO) and College of the Rockies (COTR) participated in talks on how to leverage post-secondary institutions.
“The college (COTR) is trying to build their applied research capabilities so I think there is the opportunity for the college to work with UBC Okanagan.”
UBC Okanagan already has a well developed applied research capacity.
Weaver said a lot of companies look at having that research and training capacity as a critical asset in locations to set up business.
Weaver will now be putting together an action plan around those topics to pursue in the next six months.
“We’re hoping that this will become a formal conference between the two regions every year or so,” he said.
Mayor Wayne Stetski said there is potential for enhanced business opportunities between the regions.
“It was an opportunity moving ahead to work more closely on some of those initiatives,” Stetski said. “The good news is Pacific Coastal has said that they would like to continue to support Kelowna and Cranbrook’s getting together in the future. This is the first step in creating a better future for both our communities.”
Weaver said a lot of the economic activity in this part of the province has been geared towards Alberta in the past several years.
“In many respects we were working separately from the Okanagan and other parts of the province,” Weaver said. “So this is a real opportunity for us to grow that opportunity into B.C. itself.”