Sustainability through the Competitive Spirit

City of Kamloops

It is found in cities encouraging new business investment to benefit the local economy – cities that encourage a sense of place and social well being, a place that people choose and in which they want to live. This is where Kamloops, British Columbia enters the competitive arena.

“Kamloops offers a bit of everything,” says Kamloops mayor Peter Milobar. “We’re seeing growth in many areas. Our key infrastructure is well looked after. Our core infrastructure pieces are a surprise to any new business coming in… we’ve done a good job as a community to ensure things are maintained to a high level and in an affordable way.”

The Place to do Business

With a population of 87,000, Kamloops is seen as the gateway to the interior of British Columbia. Built on floodplains at the junction of the North and South Thompson Rivers, Kamloops is at the crossroads to the province’s major highways and railways and is home to several trucking firms. A major airport serves the city’s economic and social well being. Kamloops is the stop-over for a number of bus tours, including Greyhound and Rocky Mountain Rail Tours.

Kamloops has some impressive rankings. Last year the city was chosen as the number one community in British Columbia for competitiveness in business, according to KPMG, one of the world’s largest auditing firms, impressive in that Kamloops competitors were Vancouver and Victoria. Also in 2011, Kamloops won B.C.’s Most Small Business Friendly Award, strengthening its image as an excellent community for business investment. “When you combine business competitiveness with one of the best cities to live in Canada, you’ve got a community that is positioned to grow and prosper. That’s something we all have a stake in and can be proud of,” said Peter in a March 2012 press release. He notes that the city’s growth of two percent per year is a sustainable methodical growth and that, “Our planning synced in quite well with what we saw for growth, even through the boom years of pre-2008… We have a very diversified stable economy.”

Venture Kamloops has been instrumental in the city’s economic development and marketing strategy. Venture Kamloops is solely funded by the city and at its core are business people who have developed strategies around business retention. Venture Kamloops offers work shops, seminars and mentoring programs and, “It’s focused on how to make stronger the people that have already committed to the Kamloops economy, to help them expand and maximize their current investment that they’ve already committed within the city,” adds Peter. Incentives are offered to those eligible businesses wanting to relocate. Relocation specialists offer advice on research and development tax credits, tax reimbursements and payroll rebates to assist new businesses in their start up or relocation.

First in the Nation

Kamloops prides itself on sustainable urban development and the use of clean technology. The Sun Rivers subdivision, just five minutes from downtown Kamloops, was developed on First Nations land. It is Canada’s first Geothermal community, harnessing the renewable energy of the earth’s natural heating/cooling potential. “The entire development is geothermal,” says Peter. Every property is heated, cooled and receives hot water from a looped underground system that maintains a constant 13 degrees Celsius year round. This energy savings system is 300 percent efficient, clean and quiet. “Geothermal is well embraced in Kamloops now,” adds Peter.

A Tournament Mecca

Another source of pride for the city is its reputation as the Tournament Capital of Canada; Kamloops is seen as a first class “host” city. It’s a sport tourism Mecca with $50 million invested in new and renovated facilities such as the Tournament Capital Centre. Kamloops prides itself on its ability to organize and host major sporting events and conventions. In 2011, the city hosted 109 events, not including school tournaments. These events brought an estimated 28,000 participants to the city, generating close to $12 million for the economy.

In March, 2014, Kamloops will be hosting the Tim Horton’s Brier, the first time it’s to be hosted in B.C. in 20 years. $100,000 of provincial funding will be committed to the event with an additional $100,000 from the B.C. Lottery Commission to ensure the event’s success. Of the city’s numerous events Peter says, “It’s really about providing an experience that’s not expected in a city of our size… we go after large scale national and international events and have been successful landing them.” He adds that Kamloops’ volunteer base and expertise in sport volunteerism is exceptional and, “That’s the key to pulling off these types of events – having qualified people here.” Peter relates that tournaments represent an opportunity to cooperate with the tourism sector and the city’s economic development agency to “maximize opportunities as they present themselves.”

Promoting Tourism

Some major hotel chains have moved into Kamloops in recent years and its airport’s $20 million expansion is now complete. Rocky Mountaineer Vacations, a train tour company, offers sightseeing packages throughout British Columbia. They are 2011’s winner, for the sixth consecutive year, of a World Travel Award. Rocky Mountaineer contributes over $15 million to the Kamloops economy during the summer season.

And if it’s outdoor recreation that tourists want to enjoy, Kamloops has plenty to offer. The city is surrounded by forest, mountains, lakes and rivers and is renowned for its fishing, rafting, hiking and skiing. “We have every type of outdoor activity no more than an hour’s drive outside of town,” adds Peter. “There are a lot of opportunities for families, and recreation is affordable.”

The B.C. Liberal Party’s newly created crown corporation, Destination B.C., hopes to bolster tourism promotion within the province and increase tourism revenue to $18 billion per annum by 2016. More tourists create more jobs throughout the province and in Kamloops, whose hospitality industry currently employs close to 10 percent of the population, Destination B.C. is seen as a positive agency for promoting the area’s tourism. It will be operational in the spring of 2013.

Arts and Culture

Kamloops prides itself on having a rich and varied arts and heritage scene, with activities and venues such as live theatre, the nationally recognized Kamloops Arts Gallery, Kamloops Symphony Orchestra and Kamloops Heritage Railway. For a city just slightly over a century old, Kamloops recognizes the inherent value of embracing its heritage and promotes such through its Cultural Strategic Plan. The Plan acknowledges that the cultural diversity of the city contributes to its quality of life and encourages public involvement through participation, support and volunteerism. Kamloops arts and heritage sector contributes more than $10 million to Kamloops economy annually. “The cultural side of life is very well looked after,” says Peter.

Kamloops is a modern growing city with a vision for the future. Its thriving diversified business community is well aware of the city’s potential for healthy growth. For many, it’s the place to be, business or otherwise. For Mayor Milobar it’s simply a matter of staying “as competitive as possible.”

June 24, 2018, 2:54 AM EDT

A Proactive Approach to Resolving a Longstanding Debate

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