Tech adds $1 Billion to Valley

High tech equals big bucks in the Okanagan.

A just-released study commissioned by technology incubator Accelerate Okanagan shows the Valley’s technology sector contributed a whopping $1 billion to the regional economy in 2013.

The third-party economic impact report also showed a direct impact of $797 million in revenues generated by tech companies, as well as an indirect impact of $223 million created by businesses that supply inputs to the technology sector.

Accelerate Okanagan CEO Pilar Portela says the study shows the Okanagan is one of the best places in Canada to start or invest in a tech business.

Local success stories include Bardell Entertainment and WTFast.

Bardell relocated to Kelowna in 2012 with eight staff members and has since grown to 50 employees.

Portela says the gaming production studio is expected to expand again to 120 staff by the end of this year.

WTFast was launched locally in 2009 and has grown from nothing to $2 million in annual sales after launching globally in 2012. The company provides network software for faster gaming.

Portela sees no end in sight.

“The Okanagan tech sector is a real hotspot… it’s not stopping at all,” she says.

“Startups and tech companies in the Okanagan have great access to vital resources. With over 6,500 highly skilled tech workers, an international airport that offers non-stop flights to 64 destinations, and easy access to vital business support programs and services, the Okanagan is a thriving entrepreneurial community that offers everything today’s startups need for success.”

According to the survey, the Okanagan is home to 558 technology businesses with a collective workforce of 6,551 employees. The average business has 10 employees (eight full-time and two part-time) and works with two independent contractors.

It’s estimated there are 1,920 self-employed technology workers in the Valley.

Technology employees tend to be slightly younger than those in other local industries, with 38 per cent of them under the age of 35.

Portela says the industry is also attracting more women, whereas it has historically been a male-dominated sector. The study shows one quarter of local tech employees are female, and that is expected to increase over the next few years.

The full 22-page report is available here.

Accelerate Okanagan is a tech-focused not-for-profit with the mission to increase the number of technology companies in the Valley.

Story by John Manchester / Jan. 7, 2015

Fort Mac Tourism Show 2014


Sorry it’s blurry. Luckily the Okanagan and Kelowna Neighbourhood Videos, as well as Listings being played on the screen shown are MUCH more vibrant and enticing!



George meets yet another Potential Buyer!


Central Okanagan Housing Market in Good Shape

Whether it’s the construction of new homes or the selling of homes – the housing market in the Central Okanagan is in good shape right now.

Figures released for August show housing starts in the Kelowna Census Metropolitan area (Peachland to Oyama) are similar to those posted in July.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, housing starts in August sat at 1,213 units compared with 1,276 in July.

The trend is a six month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted rates of housing starts.

“The trend in housing starts for both single detached and multiples was relatively unchanged in August reflecting stable demand for new homes,” says Sarena Teakles, CMHC Senior Market Analyst.

“This level of new home construction is consistent with Kelowna’s balanced resale market and in line with CMHC’s outlook for the year.”

The stand alone seasonally adjusted annual rate was 973 in August, down slightly from the 1,065 units the month previous.

While new home starts are showing some strength, sales across the board are up on the Central Okanagan.

Figures released by the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board shows a 23 per cent increase in sales activity of all MLS® property types over August of 2013.

Conditions in the Central Okanagan are now in sellers’ market territory with more demand than supply in some areas – especially in homes priced below $400,000 where inventory is short – and a buyers’ market in the higher price category.

New listings have fallen during five of the last six months with total inventory in the Board area down 11% compared to August 2013, resulting in levels similar to those last seen in 2008 when active listings were particularly tight.

“The selection of entry level home choices has been significantly reduced with the drop in listings, so buyers are viewing properties in a higher price range to find better selection.   With strong prices, high demand and low inventory, if you are looking to sell, now is the time to do it before winter sets in,” says OMREB President, Darcy Griffiths.

“However, there are still tremendous opportunities for buyers to get into the market with the price of single family homes fairly stable in most areas, and mortgage rates still at historic lows.”

Castanet News – September 9, 2014


The “Strata-Sphere”

With over 29,000 registered strata corporations and over 350,000 strata units in B.C., strata properties are a significant and increasing type of housing.

My name is Julia Krause, I live in Kelowna, and I’m a townhouse owner.  I’ve served on my strata council for about 15 years now, which has been a great learning experience not only as a homeowner, but also as a mortgage broker, which has been my job for just over 20 years. 

Experience has taught me that many buyers who purchase a condo or a townhouse often do so without taking time to read the information about the complex, which is always provided to a buyer by their realtor and/or lawyer.  Of course, every homebuyer gets buried in paperwork during the purchase and mortgage process  and granted, it’s not exactly riveting reading material.  But as you begin to learn more about the complex in which you now OWN… the phrase, “But I didn’t know that!” is not going to help you. 

Rather than ‘buyer beware’, I prefer to say ‘buyer be aware’.  By writing this column, I hope to provide some “I wish I had known that BEFORE I bought!” information for those considering buying a condo or townhouse, but also for those who already own a strata property, and perhaps don’t quite understand how it all works.

1Let’s start with the terminology… 

 In B.C., condominiums and townhouses are referred as strata properties.  Individual owners have title to their condo or townhouse plus a proportional share of the common property.  The common property belongs to all the owners, and all owners share the cost of maintaining it.

 A strata corporation is made up of all the individual homeowners in a particular complex or building.  The B.C. Strata Property Act is the framework under which a strata corporation operates.  A strata corporation is required to make decisions using democratic principles (“majority rules”). 

A strata council is a group of homeowners who volunteer their time to ensure that the building or complex is properly maintained, that rules (strata by-laws) are being followed, and that the finances (strata fees) are handled responsibly. 

 Living in a strata property is not for everyone, and that’s OK.  We are all unique individuals.  For others though, it can be the perfect living situation.  Here are some important questions to ask yourself when you’re considering buying a condo or townhouse, which will give you an idea of the reality of strata living:

  • Can you live in a complex/community where you do not have total control over your own home?
  • Can you live in a complex/community where decisions are made democratically, and you may not always get your way?
  • Are you willing to be cooperative and help with the running of a complex/community?
  • Are you willing to share the cost of maintaining common areas that are for the use of all owners?

In future columns, I’ll get into more details about things like strata fees, by-laws, management companies, etc. Thanks for reading! 


Castanet online April 22, 2014 – contributed by Julia Kraus