Kamloops Tops List of Best Communities for Business, Kamloops Daily News

This article appeared in the Kamloops Daily News on June 4th, 2012 and was written by Sylvie Paillard.

Downtown Kamloops Economy Business OpportunityDespite jumping the gun on the start-up of Ajax Mine, a magazine article’s accolades for the business climate in Kamloops is still good news for the City by all accounts.

A combination of nature and nurture makes Kamloops the best place for business in B.C., and among the top three in western Canada, according to Venture Alberta magazine, a 15-year-old publication that boasts more than 160,000 business readers.

“We look at hard indicators like business tax, median income and average lease rate,” said Venture Alberta editor Michael Ganley. “But there’s also a lot of softer stuff, like a community that’s close to the mountains and has got some great swimming.”

The city’s strength in mining also boosted its ranking, despite the magazine’s incorrect report that Ajax mine started up a year ago and employs more than 850 people.

The magazine’s editorial staff took in 85 applications from communities from Saskatchewan to B.C. and settled on Kamloops as its top pick of the 25 best, based mainly on its new reputation as a hub for tech companies.

“That’s an industry of the future,” said Ganley. “Working on becoming a centre for IT, for communications, that set it apart.”

Q9 opened its six-megawatt data storage facility in April of 2010. It’s currently used to store information for the B.C. government. Just next door, Telus is building a $75-million facility set to open some time in 2013. The communications giant plans to invest $100 million in the city over a three-year period.

The magazine also points to developments in the business sector as a boon. Kamloops licensed 5,512 new business permits in 2011, a slight increase of 1.7 per cent from 2010. It also increased its annual construction value in the commercial, industrial and institutional sectors by nine per cent, to $57 million in 2011.

Despite the erroneous reference to Ajax, mining still gets top billing for its investment.

Rick Robertson, an owner of Robertson MFG, a Kamloops-based supplier of core and soil-sample boxes for the mining industry, is among the entrepreneurs benefiting from the area’s natural resources.

“We’ve got tremendous mining development potential and longevity,” he said.

Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake says the area is naturally suited to be an IT hub since fibre optic networks follow the railway lines with CN Rail and CP Rail coalescing in the City. And its natural resources give it prominence for investment as well.

But there’s no forgetting the City’s business nurturing aspect.

“Venture Kamloops is getting stronger and stronger,” he said, referring to the City’s business information and economic development organization.

“People who are looking to do business here can find out about it in a very short period of time and that wasn’t always the case.”

To hear him speak of selling the area, Venture Kamloops executive director Dan Sulz makes it sound easy.

“I keep saying it’s really going to be our time to shine,” he said. “Because of the diversity of our economy, there’s a business case for businesses to be here but there’s also a reason for people to visit here as well.”

Diversity of industry attracts investment from firms that know skilled employees will be attracted to areas where they can live and work, said mayor Peter Milobar.

“The strength of our diversification and the wide variety of things that we have driving our economy are all strong and stable right now,” he said.

And with the City’s focus on balancing business, social issues and public amenities, Venture Kamloops will have plenty to boast about, said Milobar.

“Venture Kamloops is instrumental in trying to get the word out there to the broader investment community and publications and articles like this are another tool that they can use to effectively demonstrate what they’re saying is backed up by other people.”

Read the Alberta Venture profile for Kamloops.