Oil sector fuels jobs strategy

Northern communities aren’t the only ones benefitting from the oil and natural gas boom

Northern communities aren’t the only ones benefitting from the oil and natural gas boom.

The North Okanagan is encouraging resource sector businesses to headquarter here or for their employees to buy homes in the valley.

“We have companies that support the oil and gas sector,” said Kevin Poole, Vernon’s economic development manager.

“Rhinokor (in Spallumcheen) does composite rig mats and fracking tanks. There’s also Westwood Electric.”

In the case of Westwood Electric, the senior administration is in Vernon as well as the support systems for 300 employees.

“A lot of those people live here and work in Alberta and Saskatchewan,” said Poole.

“Why not have more of those people?”

Another local firm that is active in the oil sector is Summit Environmental.

To promote what the North Okanagan has to offer to prospective manufacturers and corporate offices, Poole will attend the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary June 9 to 12.

A key issue that will be discussed is the North Okanagan’s climate and recreational amenities as decisions about purchasing a home or where to locate a business are often based on lifestyle.

“One worker in Kelowna is out for a week (on the job) and back in for a week,” said Poole.

“He wanted to maximize every day on the lake and beach and he brings those dollars (wages) back here.”

Also working in the North Okanagan’s favour is its proximity to Kelowna International Airport.

“It allows companies to attract staff to the area they want to live in while still providing them with the connections to those other areas where they work,” said Poole.

However, one challenge when trying to lure manufacturers here is the lack of industrial land.

Poole is currently working with his Regional District of North Okanagan counterparts to address that issue.

“We have to look at how to service these lands,” he said of the need for water and sewer.