High tech is going boldly where no Okanagan industry has dared go before.

Accelerate Okanagan’s new five-year strategic plan predicts the high-tech sector in the Valley will have $5-billion annual economic impact by the end of 2024.

That’s quite a jump from the current $1.7-billion-a-year economic wallop.

But, it’s doable, according to Accelerate Okanagan, the agency that supports tech entrepreneurs and companies with advocacy and programs.

Every year since 2013 there has been 15% growth, a pace that when compounded and fast-tracked could mean $5 billion in 2024.

“We’ve set some big and audacious goals,” said Accelerate Okanagan acting CEO Brea Lake.

“In the next five years, Okanagan tech will have an economic impact of $5 billion, be a level five Techstars Community Score.”

Currently, the Okanagan has a level three Techstars Community Score.

To surge two levels in the next five years, Accelerate Okanagan will work with industry to invest more in talent development,

attract start-up and growth capital, increase mentorship and attract more high-tech companies to the Valley, including regional corporations.

Right now, there are about 700 high-tech firms in the Okanagan of all sizes with 13,000 well-paid workers.

Approximately 55% of the workforce is under the age of 35.

The Okanagan’s high-tech strength has been in attracting entrepreneurs who want to build a company in a city with all the amenities, but also plenty of recreation opportunities.

In turn, those entrepreneurs attract and retain workers who want the same lifestyle.

High tech’s growth has also spurred UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College to offer more courses in that field.

Those students graduate and stay in the Valley to work, rather than fleeing to the big city for careers, as they did in the past.

High tech’s rise to $5 billion will make it the largest economic engine in the region, outpacing the current biggest ó tourism with 3.5 million visitors a year contributing to a $2-billion annual impact.

Construction-real estate, retail-wholesale-trade and health care round out the top five economic sectors in the Okanagan.

Lake, previously director of operations, took over as interim CEO from Raghwa Gopal last year, when he departed to become president of Innovate B.C.

Accelerate Okanagan, with the help of Kelowna-based LoveHR, is conducting a nation-wide search to find a permanent replacement.

Buy local, buy fresh

The seventh annual Buy Local, Buy Fresh Okanagan Map is out.

The map with 125 farm, local food, wine, store and farmers’ market listings and upcoming event dates, info and graphics was launched at the Vernon Farmers’ Market recently.

It’s now available at most visitor centres, hotels, farmers’ markets and participating businesses.

The map is also available online at BuyLocalBC.org.


for zoomers

Barry Johnson, a zoomer himself, has come out of retirement to develop Ariva Resort, a 200-condominium gated community aimed at zoomers.

Zoomers, the label for active baby boomers aged 55-75, may want maintenance-free condo living so they can lock up and go on extended trips, but they also want activities galore,

That’s why Ariva touts nearby hiking and will have its own fitness centre, yoga studio and gym, cafe, wine bar, lounge, pool and travel, wine, music and investment clubs.

There will also be a two-acre urban farm for residents to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers, e-bikes, man caves, pickleball courts, putting green, bocce courts and space for car tinkerers.

A lifestyle concierge will arrange events, Okanagan excursions and even group travel abroad.

Construction will start next year on the first of five, six-storey buildings off Old Ferry Wharf Road overlooking Okanagan Lake, five minutes from the bridge on the Westside.

Ariva plans to build the five complexes in phases over four years.

The 12 acres is on on Westbank First Nations land, which Ariva Resorts is leasing for 125 years.

Johnson was a partner in Canadian Adult Communities, which built a dozen of those gated communities for empty-nesters and retirees that all had names starting with ‘Sand’ such as Sandringham, Sandalwood and Sandstone. He was also a development partner at Predator Ridge Golf Resort.

For Ariva, Johnson has partnered with his engineer son, Kevin.

Condos will range in size from 1,250 to 1,760 square feet, feature large decks and be priced from $500,000 to $1.9 million, depending on size, floor and whether or not the unit has a lake view.

The presentation centre is open at 529 Bernard Ave.every day,

except Mondays, from noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment at ArivaKelowna.ca.

Deadline for business awards

End of business today is the deadline to nominate entrepreneurs and companies for the Westside Key Business Awards.

Anyone can nominate deserving businesses in 10 categories ñ tourism/hospitality, young entrepreneur, community/public service, Indigenous business, small business, large business, new business, platinum service provider, sustainable green business and performing arts.

Nomination forms are at


Meantime, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce has extended the deadline for its Business Excellence Awards to 4 p.m. Friday.

It has also added a 13th category — excellence in tourism.

The 12 other categories are:

rising star, micro-business, small business, medium-sized business, large business, marketing campaign of the year, social leadership for a non-profit, business leader of the year, technology innovator, arts/entertainment, not-for-profit excellence and young entrepreneur.

Nomination forms at KelownaChamber.org.

Choices serious about reducing plastic

Choices Markets, which has a store in Kelowna at Highway 97 and Spall Road, is getting a jump start on the federal government’s single-use plastics ban.

Ottawa announced the restrictions in the spring for 2021 implementation.

As of this month, Choices has removed all 500-millilitre single-serve plastic water

bottles from store shelves.

Untile the end of the month, customers who bring in

water bottles of one litre or less will receive free water refills.

At the checkout counter, customers will have the choice of carrying their groceries away in a recyclable cardboard box or paper bag instead of a plastic bag.

Shoppers will also have the choice to buy two different styles of reusable produce bags.

Steve MacNaull is a reporter at The Daily Courier. Email: steve.macnaull@ok.bc.ca