Economic conditions improve in Vernon

There is a projected $350,000 building permit for the former Bank of Montreal property on 30th Avenue.

City of Vernon officials believe an economic turnaround is underway.

In a quarterly update, economic development manager Kevin Poole told council that construction and tourism is strong.

“There’s a lot of activity — a lot of community stuff going on,” he said.

In terms of construction, there is a projected $350,000 building permit for the former Bank of Montreal property on 30th Avenue.

“There will be a nice facelift happening to that building,” said Poole.

A $2.4 million building permit is also anticipated as Canadian Tire takes over the Target site in the Village Green Centre.

“They have estimated they would like to be open in the spring of 2016 so they have a fair bit of work to do,” said Poole.

Predator Ridge Resort will also expand its clubhouse and about 275 in seniors residential housing is on the books.

Poole’s office is also working with the Regional District of North Okanagan on industrial land and how they can receive water and sewer services.

“We are trying to find solutions with the end goal of creating employment,” he said.

On the tourism front, the city’s hotel accommodations tax revenue climbed 35 per cent in May and June.

Provincial and national media have also been brought to Vernon to learn about the community and those broadcasts and newspaper reports have resulted in an equivalent advertising value of $1 million.

B.C. and Alberta are the primary tourism markets, but Coun. Juliette Cunningham questions if Vernon should be looking south of the border.

“The U.S. dollar is so strong compared to ours,” she said.

Poole admits there are some budget limitations, but targeting new markets is possible.

“Washington State is something we’re looking at.”

Promoting Vernon as a sports tourism destination is also on the radar.

“We hope to bring more tournaments in our off-shoulder season to put more heads in beds (hotels),” he said, adding that he will be speaking to someone about possibly bringing a cycling event to Vernon.