Kelowna's economy looks bright

While segments of the country are struggling under the weight of a falling loonie and depressed oil prices, Kelowna's economy seems to be bouncing back.

Fourth quarter numbers indicate a renewed faith in the city by developers and investors.

Real estate divisional director Doug Gilchrist presented the cheery news during his fourth quarter address to city council, Monday.

"Development permits were $91 million in quarter four alone, for a total of $349 million in permit revenues. It's our highest construction value year since 2010," Gilchrist told council.

"Building permits for single-family dwellings at 330 is also a record number since 2007. Positive trends on all fronts there."

The good news didn't stop there.

Kelowna issued 9,251 business licenses in 2014, which included 1,424 new businesses.

There were also 809 inter-municipal licenses issued as part of the mobile business licence program.

Gilchrist also pointed to the performance of Kelowna's airport as another positive economic driver.

The airport reached it's drive to 1.6 million passengers a year ahead of schedule, hitting the milestone at the end of 2014.

In fact, Gilchrist says YLW has recorded record increases in each of the past 24 months.

"One of the new services that will contribute to those numbers is the new Pacific Coastal Airlines flight to Trail, which flies six days a week," said Gilchrist.

"Air Canada also announced daily flights on their Air Canada Rouge service to Toronto. That will be starting June 1."

The Kelowna to Toronto service will be aboard a 136-seat Airbus A319 with premium and economy service.

Following the success of downtown projects, such as the revitalization of Bernard Avenue, the new pier and yacht club, Gilchrist says residents need to brace for even more improvements, many either already underway or set to begin.

"There's the Innovation Centre... site prep is underway, and the Kelowna Community Health Services Centre... site preparation is also underway," says Gilchrist.

Gilchrist said the second phase of Stuart Park should be complete by May, while the Queensway transit exchange also has a summer completion date.

"The Westcorp Hotel, I understand, will start in the fourth quarter of this year with a 22-month build, and the RCMP building has a completion target of 2017.

Some improvements to the Lawrence and Pandosy intersection, the Ethel Street active transportation corridor, are also going on this year, and the two parkades at the Library and Ellis Street."

Gilchrist added a significant amount of both public and private investment is being made in Kelowna's downtown corridor, calling it a positive step for the future of downtown.

by Wayne Moore | Story: 132042 - Feb 3, 2015 / 5:00 am

Amanda Westrheim

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