B.C. billionaire Jim Pattison speaks to the media Thursday while visiting Kiss FM.

B.C. billionaire Jim Pattison speaks to the media Thursday while visiting Kiss FM.

Pattison bullish on B.C.’s economy

Jim Pattison visits Vernon

One of B.C.’s best known business leaders believes the worst is over economically.

Jim Pattison, chairman of Jim Pattison Group, says there are a number of factors that have helped Canada and B.C. cope with the recession.

“Canada is really, relative to the rest of the world, in good shape,” said Pattison, who was in Vernon Thursday to tour the community and visit Kiss FM, which his company owns.

“Our banks have been solid and with our debt load, while high, compared to other countries our government has done relatively well.”

Pattison says global demand for natural resources places B.C. on a strong footing and he expects the province can capitalize on growth in Asian nations.

“We’ll be right there at the front door,” he said.

Like most British Columbians, Pattison is awaiting the outcome of the harmonized sales tax referendum and whether the levy will be extinguished or continue.

“I’m on the side of what’s best for the long-term,” he said.

“From everything I’ve learned, I think the HST is the right decision for the overall long-term benefit. Some businesses will benefit and others won’t. There will always be trade-offs.”

Pattison and his senior executive, including former premier Glen Clark, met with Kiss FM staff and officially opened recent renovations at the radio station.

“We understand more when we meet everybody,” he said of travelling to his various divisions.

Pattison also toured Vernon for an hour with Mayor Wayne Lippert and Kevin Poole, the city’s economic development manager.

“It’s always important to have prominent businesspeople here, especially when they have investments here,” said Lippert.

“It shows a real confidence in what’s been happening here and what can happen here in Vernon.”

Among the sights were the downtown core, Predator Ridge, construction of the new Kal Tire headquarters and the local Coopers Foods store, which Pattison owns along with Save On Foods.

“We wanted to showcase the development going on here and possibly some of the opportunities,” said Poole.

“Hopefully we will see if he wants to invest further in the community.”

Pattison wouldn’t speculate on whether he will expand his presence in Vernon.

“It depends on the industry,” he said, adding, though, that he is fond of the region. “I don’t know if there is a nicer place to live than the Okanagan. It’s a wonderful part of the world.”