Twenty years ago Kamloops had a bit of an identity problem. The City was viewed and described by outsiders as a dry, dusty, resource-based town, somewhere between Vancouver and Calgary.
Over the past two decades, several very successful initiatives have helped us shed the industrial image that still restrains places like Prince George from maturing successfully in their tourism and service sectors.
Here in Kamloops, we can now celebrate a thriving service economy based in no small part on the huge success of our rebirth as a beautiful, blooming health centre and Canada’s Tournament Capital.
The appeal of our community as a place to settle down for those nearing the end of their working lives is growing to an extraordinary degree.
This trend has multi-faceted financial implications. As retirees age, they require more services, which provides employment in a variety of areas. A good number of retirees have sufficient income that they can support restaurants, performing and visual arts, and a myriad of other cultural events that make our community such a great place to live.
Our city is very well situated as the obvious stopover for foreign visitors travelling from Vancouver to Calgary. Many of these tourists are not used to our Canadian highway distances, and are finding that Kamloops is a pleasant place to stop for a delicious meal, to enjoy Music in the Park, and then to stay overnight before continuing on their journey.
I believe huge economic potential exists in encouraging one-night visitors to extend their stays in order to explore our beautiful riverside city by promoting ourselves as more of a destination city.
Technology is an economic sector that is booming worldwide with no end in sight (23 years will be the blink of an eye compared to the longevity of the tech economy). This industry is completely mobile, giving businesses the luxury of setting up shop wherever they can plug their machines into an electrical socket.
Over the next few years, Telus will be investing approximately $100 million into our local communication network. This will create some of the fastest and most sophisticated technological infrastructure on the planet. Computer data centers are also attracted to stable geographical areas (like Kamloops) that are sheltered from potential earthquake problems that might interrupt their servers.
The main factor that dictates where tech-based industries choose to locate is quality of life characteristics that aid in their ability to attract highly specialized staff to their organizations in a very competitive employee market.
During last November’s civic election campaign I brought up this question: “In 10 or 20 years will Kamloops be defined as a mining/logging town or will we be seen as a municipality that has come into its own as a strong, vibrant city with a stable economy based on tourism, technology and as a beautiful place to visit and enjoy retirement?”
I fear the proposed Ajax mine could put a major portion of our future economic potential in jeopardy as it clashes with much of what I've stated above. I look forward to reading what the socio-economic study conducted by KGHM will encompass as it is a vital part of the analysis.