Premier John Horgan, right, walks with Hardy Wentzel, CEO of Structurlam in Okanagan Falls in this 2019 file photo. Structurlam, which employs around 200 people, is one of the leading economic drivers in Okanagan Falls. (Black Press file photo)

Economic recovery emphasized for Okanagan Falls

Small community in South Okanagan has been struggling since before COVID-19 pandemic

An economic development and recovery plan for the community of Okanagan Falls outlines strategic directions for the community and urges action for stakeholders to contribute to the success of the community.

The plan was presented to the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen during the Sept. 3 board meeting.

“Okanagan Falls has suffered from a gradual economic decline and COVID-19 has exacerbated this trend,” the report states.

“There is a need for a new strategy to reverse this trend and build momentum in the community.”

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The report was presented by Brad Dollevoet of Kettle Valley Construction.

Okanagan Falls, with a population of around 2,500, is the largest unincorporated community within the regional district.

The community has some substantial economic drivers including Structurlam, which specializes in innovative wood products and employs 200 people. Unit Electric Engineering Ltd. has its head office in Okanagan Falls and employs 100 people. The community also has several wineries.

However, despite growth in some sectors, the community is now stagnant, the report states.

“A once blossoming small community, its economic fortunes have suffered from a gradual decline.”

The only local grocery store closed its doors in September, 2019.

And during the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 90 per cent of the service-based businesses in the community saw a complete revenue loss from mid-March to mid-May.

The report offers several goals for the community.

These include making Okanagan Falls attractive for young families, providing business support, building the community as a tourism destination, improving and beautifying the downtown and building on existing community amenities.

“Many of these action items will require collaboration with different organizations for them to be successful, so a strong working relationship with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, Okanagan Falls organizations and residents will be required moving forward,” the report states.

The plan calls for the goals in the report to be completed by the fall of 2022.

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