The Okanagan is a unique terroir. It has its own microclimate. It has its own voice, vibe and heartbeat.
“Of course it does,” said Deborah Buszard, principal of the Kelowna campus of UBC.
“UBC planted a seed here 15 years ago, and naturally it’s grown differently than does UBC on the coast.”
Buszard was a guest speaker, along with B.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO Val Litwin, at a Kelowna Chamber of Commerce breakfast this week at the Kelowna Yacht Club.
“The business community here and the young researchers and students we have at the university have worked on interesting projects. That could only happen in a valley where there’s KF Aerospace, Kal Tire, Interior Health, a booming wine industry and burgeoning high-tech cluster,” said Buszard.
Similar synergies were evident at other, long-established universities where Buszard has worked.
Dalhousie in Halifax is renowned for its ocean-related courses and research.
McGill in Montreal is a medicine and aerospace specialist.
While UBC Okanagan has a long way to go to have the centuries-old history of those two universities, Buszard said it’s inevitable.
“UBC Okanagan is truly becoming a magnet for world-class talent. It is an institution that will drive the economy,” she said.
“It’s done extraordinary work in the 15 years it’s been around. The 300 professors of today will grow to 500 in 20 more years. The goal has always been to be a great university.”
Litwin loved the terroir analogy for the university, considering terroir is a term often bandied about in the Okanagan wine industry.
“It ties into how the B.C. Chamber of Commerce is using BCMindReader.com to determine challenges and solutions unique to British Columbia,” he said.
The website is a platform for the provincial chamber to take the pulse of B.C. business with forums and regularly timed questions. Any business person in B.C. can log in for free and join the conversation.
In the 14 months the website has been running, 1,700 businesses have participated.
“What’s become the most pressing issue for business is how rising costs are starting to curtail growth,” said Litwin.
“Business has no choice but to pass those higher costs on to consumers. So, governments have to strike a balance. We know there has to be taxes to provide essential services, but there also has to be tax cuts and less red tape so the business sector can be healthy. B.C.’s finance minister has recognized this and is willing to work toward a solution.”
Litwin is also proud of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce for having three of its resolutions passed at last week’s Canadian Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting in Saint John, N.B.
The first resolution calls on all levels of government, schools and the business community to work toward a solution for the labour shortage that’s happening in the aerospace sector.
That labour shortage is already being felt by companies like KF Aerospace in Kelowna, which can’t find enough maintenance technicians and engineers.
The second resolution calls for more tax breaks for developers who build rental apartments and townhouses to promote access to and affordability of housing for all.
The third resolution asks for government help in promoting Highway 97 as a major inland trucking route for goods crossing the Canada-U.S. border.
The Kelowna chamber already had B.C. chamber support for the resolutions and now has Canadian chamber backing.