Political forces unite behind economy

Regional employment lands action plan draws considerable interest

It’s being described as an unprecedented show of support for bolstering the local economy.

About 40 politicians, administrators and First Nations representatives attended a meeting Thursday to discuss the regional employment lands action plan.

“There was a huge turnout,” said Kevin Poole, City of Vernon economic development manager.

“It was great to have them all in one room. It’s an important issue.”

The action plan is a project of the Regional District of North Okanagan and the City of Vernon,  and the goal is to make land available for manufacturing and other opportunities within a five-year period.

“We’re looking at servicing and shared agreements to unlock undeveloped lands or under-utilized lands,” said Rob Smailes, RDNO’s general manager of planning.

And for Poole, the key to creating employment is finding ways to extend vital services, like water and sewer, to properties.

“It’s not just about how we work in our own communities but how we work regionally. We are one regional economy,” he said.

“If something happens in Lumby or Spallumcheen, it’s good for all of us.”

Cases of relationships already exist.

“We can learn from Enderby and the Splatsin and the co-operation they already have,” said Poole.

Among those at the meeting was Byron Louis, Okanagan Indian Band chief.

“It was a good start,” said Louis.

For the OKIB, there is interest in developing land on the west side of Okanagan Lake, as well as other sections of reserve.

“We have close to 60 to 70 acres along the Swan Lake corridor,” said Louis.

Those present split up into smaller investment groups based on geography, with one including Vernon, Areas B and C, Coldstream, Spallumcheen and the OKIB.

“We will reconvene that group. We agree we need to work together,” said Mike Macnabb, Area C director.

While previous approaches have had limited success, Macnabb is confident this process will have achievable goals.

“The energy in the room was positive. I believe it will move forward,” he said.

Poole is looking forward to the next steps.

“Further dialogue has to happen and a plan will come out of it,” he said.