Vernon should think like an entrepreneur

After leaving the Planners Breakfast the other day I felt a bit concerned about the fate of our small diamond-in-the-rough community.

After leaving the Planners Breakfast the other day I felt a bit concerned about the fate of our small diamond-in-the-rough community.

Basically what I heard was because we don’t really have any major industry here, the reason people come is because it’s a nice place to live. Maybe they have choice about where they live with how they work, maybe they’re retired, maybe they’re seasonal residents – whatever the reason, they’re here because it’s the sunny Okanagan. I don’t know about you, but for me, it kind of feels like one of those situations where the diagnosis could be fatal, but at least we know what the disease is.  Maybe we can treat it.

Now that we have the prognosis, how do we treat it? Well, here’s what we know:

Most young people are leaving this community. They can’t get jobs that pay enough to support their families.

All those vacation home dollars that were flooding into this community are being redirected to a cheap U.S. housing market.

People come to the Okanagan because it’s a nice place to live, but Vernon hasn’t, in my opinion, done a great job at making this a great place to live. Our downtown is deserted most nights of the week. We don’t have any amenity on our waterfront, our bike paths are scattered and neither entrance to the city is anything to be proud of.

So where is the market shifting?  Where’s the opportunity? One thing we’re seeing on the mortgage financing end are more people who do have the benefit of mobility with their live/work locations, starting to look at Vernon now as a place to move to. Depressed pricing is creating an opportunity for purchasers to move into a market that may have previously been unaffordable. For example, northern B.C. residents experiencing an upswing in their market are selling high and relocating to Vernon where they can buy low.

As entrepreneurs, we really have to start thinking outside the box, rallying together to support each other, start pushing our city council to improve our downtown, beautify the entrances to the city, give us a waterfront, connect our bike paths and make this city something to be proud of and to shout from the rooftops to those that want to come and live here.

The city itself needs to start thinking like an entrepreneur, to start thinking like the majority of its resident business owners. It isn’t enough to play off of the major investments of big believers in this community like Wesbild, Sparkling Hill, Silver Star and the Rise. Those tigers are fighting hard on behalf of this city, but they have been fighting alone. They need a partner in this community to support those efforts – they need soldiers to stand beside them in the battle that is this global economy.

I have been a lifetime resident of this community, a community that I have loved, have put my blood, sweat and tears into, have believed in and fought for. But over the past several years I haven’t been proud to call it home and quite honestly have contemplated a move myself.

I want to have a love affair with this community again, I want to be so proud of it I shout it from the rooftops.

I beg of city council to help all of our residents fall madly in love again with this place.

So we can all be proud again to live here, to call this amazing city home.

Krystine McInnes