Nuri Fisher

Nuri Fisher

Okanagan technology industry in the fast lane

Over a two-year period, the Okanagan’s technology workforce has increased by 16 per cent

The Okanagan’s technology industry is accelerating at full throttle, contributing $1.3 billion to the local economy in 2015 alone.

“Technology innovation is rapidly transforming every industry and sector. Nearly all business is becoming ‘technology-enabled,’” said Raghwa Gopal, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan.

“The growth we’re seeing is being driven from companies across the whole region, from Salmon Arm to Osoyoos, in a wide range of sectors – including agriculture, energy, health care, software, telecommunications, and advanced manufacturing.”

AO released the results of a report on the technology sector’s economic impact in 2015 at a press conference Wednesday at Vernon city hall.

The $1.3 billion contribution to the overall Okanagan economy represents an unprecedented 30 per cent growth rate in two years.

Over a two-year period, the Okanagan’s technology workforce has increased by 16 per cent to a total of 7,600 people.

According to the 2015 economic impact survey, the Okanagan Valley is home to 633 technology businesses, an increase of 75 businesses since 2013.

According to Gopal, 180 of those are in Vernon and Salmon Arm. And 52 per cent of the workers are below the age of 35, which is keeping young people in the region.

“It’s great growth for our community and it’s great growth for our young people,” said Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund.

Piscine Energetics is one Vernon business that has benefitted from the technology sector thanks to the support of AO. While the company itself harvests mysis shrimp in Okanagan Lake, the business excelled thanks to world-class technology companies which AO was able to get them in touch with.

“I really do not think the business would have accelerated to the point it has, had it not been for the Okanagan technology companies,” said Nuri Fisher, Piscine Energetics president.

There are also two start-up companies in Enderby involved with AO, including Armadillo Trailer Manufacturing.

“They just build trailers but there’s a lot of technology involved,” said Gopal.

In Salmon Arm, Mayor Nancy Cooper says the region is also growing its technology sector.

“Salmon Arm is looking at a feasibility study for the technology sector,” said Cooper, adding that Telus fibre optics are already in place door-to-door (as they are in Vernon), which will draw more tech businesses to town.

But some challenges facing the industry are capital and talent.

“We have 100 to 200 openings at any time,” said Gopal.