With the holiday season winding down, we have much to anticipate in 2013.
On the political horizon is the provincial election, which will likely be a tight race between the free enterprise B.C. Liberals and the NDP.
The federal Conservative government is expected to continue its pursuit to build a strong national economy, stimulate job growth, and position Canada for long-term prosperity.
So what might 2013 bring to those of us here in the Okanagan?
For our local economy, I hope this year will be defined by opportunities for businesses to grow, to enable them to create permanent high-paying jobs, and to keep our talented young people here.
Over the holiday season, I was invited to join community leaders from
throughout the region at the Kelowna International Airport to welcome
United Airlines' inaugural direct flight from L.A. to Kelowna.
Building on the airport's existing relationships with Air Canada and WestJet, United's decision to add Kelowna to its destinations list is a powerful signal that the Okanagan possesses the ingredients for a strong economic foundation and the capacity to nurture the critical partnerships to collectively benefit from these opportunities.
This is what opportunity sounds like when it knocks.
But this did not happen by accident. United's arrival is a culmination of hard work and determination by our regional, industry, political and transportation leaders.
They understood the importance and value of the jewels the Okanagan has to offer - world-class wines, ski hills, resorts, restaurants, hotels, and compelling natural, historic and cultural experiences. They understood the importance of better connecting our local businesses and our economy to the rest of the world.
The Kelowna airport serves as one of our most valuable regional assets and is a critical transportation hub for the Thompson-Okanagan. Its role in leveraging opportunities cannot be overstated. The impact of a strategically developed and managed airport, like ours, can generate shared benefits and strengthen existing partnerships and efforts to broaden and deepen our local economy.
The benefits derived from a strong transportation hub will be shared.
Visitors, once they arrive, will travel
extensively throughout the region - to Vernon, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Osoyoos and beyond in pursuit of unique and memorable experiences.
Co-ordinating transportation, tourism, political and economic resources across jurisdictions will bring new opportunities for communities beyond Kelowna.
The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association recently released its long-term regional strategy for economic growth and a vision to create exceptional visitor experiences through powerful partnerships. Introducing this new travel service contributes to realizing those ambitions.
This new direct access to the California market - comprising some 37 million people - creates a new avenue for tourists and businesspeople to visit and for Okanagan business leaders to connect with partners and customers more easily.
Lane Merrifield, a Club Penguin co-founder, recently shared his insights into the impact of this route - how it will improve productivity by capitalizing on better access to international destinations, strengthening business relationships, and enabling employees to spend less time in airports and more time with their colleagues and families.
As the relationship with United grows, possibilities to expand service to destinations, such as San Francisco, may arise, creating further opportunities to connect our local high-tech industry and the Silicon Valley.
This may also strengthen existing initiatives like Metabridge, which already links Okanagan and California technology companies.
United's direct flights between Kelowna and L.A. are more than an added travel route. It is the realization of a vision that airport director Sam Samaddar and his team, along with regional, political, and industry leaders have for the economic future of our region.
It represents years of dedication and hard work - and a deep understanding of the power of partnership.
And that, for me, is The Bottom Line.
Chris Gorman is a school trustee who hosts a blog on his website at www.chrisgorman.ca.