Although most widely known for its wine and tourism industries, the Okanagan Valley has seen a boom in its tech sector, with Kelowna at the epicentre of this boom. A recent survey by Accelerate Okanagan (AO) reveals that there are nearly 700 tech companies in the Okanagan, a 24% increase since 2013. These companies employ over 12,000 workers in the region and contribute $1.67 billion dollars to the region's economy. While Vancouver is still BC's largest technological hub, what is attracting so many 'techies' to BC's wine country? The following are some of the major reasons tech companies are moving to the Okanagan, and more specifically, moving to Kelowna.
- Lifestyle. 81% of the respondents of the AO survey listed lifestyle as the number one advantage of operating a tech business in the Okanagan. Due high demand for skilled tech workers across the country, many could operate just about anywhere but choose to live and work in the Okanagan due to the lifestyle the region offers. Year-round recreational activities provided by the lake and mountains coupled with a plethora of wineries and craft breweries to enjoy among breathtaking scenery makes the Okanagan an attractive place to live and work. Furthermore, Kelowna's former fruit packing district was converted to a Cultural District with the intent of further promoting a creative and innovative lifestyle appreciated by many working in the tech industry while maintaining the heritage of the local area.
- Cost of living. While still considered a challenge to some respondents of the AO survey, the cost of living in Kelowna is considerably lower than that of other Canadian cities with significant tech industries. According to a pricing index published by Expatistan, Kelowna's overall cost of living is substantially lower than most major Canadian cities including Vancouver. The housing prices in each market certainly reflect this as the average price of a single-detached house in Kelowna is approximately $580,000 as opposed to $1.5 million in Vancouver; the average price of a strata condo in Kelowna is approximately $270,000 compared to $664,000 in Vancouver.
- Civic and provincial policy and investment in technology. The Intelligent Community Forum’s Smart21 Communities for 2018 listed the City of Kelowna as one of the world's 21 smartest cities based on its approach and investment in technology. One noteworthy investment includes the city's deployment and continued development of a dark fibre network, providing businesses across multiple industries with Internet speeds of above 10GB, high reliability and security, among other benefits. The Innovation Centre, a state-of-the-art building in Kelowna's Cultural District, was established to "help build Canada's most innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial technology community," from solopreneuers to large technology and innovation companies. Additionally, new funding was announced last year by the Province of British Columbia that will increase students' access to tech-related programs at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan Campus and at Okanagan College.
- Climate. Considered another major advantage of operating in the Okanagan by respondents of the AO survey, those who live and work in Kelowna and throughout the region enjoy all four seasons, including over 2,000 hours of sunlight and only 28 cm of rain. The climate certainly supports the lifestyle engaged in by many Kelowna residents.
- Commute time. AO survey respondents also listed commute times as a big benefit of living and working in the Okanagan. Though communing in Kelowna is challenging at times, especially in the summer months when tourism season is in full force, according to the 2016 Census conducted by Statistics Canada, commute times in Kelowna are seven minutes less than the Canadian national average. Canadians spend 26.2 minutes on average traveling to work; commuters in Kelowna spend an average of 19.8 minutes. Average commute times in the Canadian cities with the largest tech industries were reported by Statistics Canada as 29.7 minutes in Vancouver, 30 minutes in Montreal, and 34 minutes in Toronto.
Though there are many upsides for tech companies to move to Kelowna, one of the main challenges facing tech companies surveyed by AO is the small pool of talent available in the region. Finding skilled employees is currently a struggle across many industries; however, this is a plus for those seeking employment in the tech sector as jobs are plentiful. If you are seeking a job in the tech sector, check out AO's job board for job listings throughout the Okanagan.
If you are interested in relocating to Kelowna to work in the tech sector, we've compiled lists of housing options located close to some of Kelowna's major tech companies. These lists are current and updated every five minutes:
Housing options near Bardel Entertainment (the animation studio behind the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Housing options near The Centre for Arts and Technology (around which many Kelowna tech companies are located, including Csek Creative)
Housing options near Acro Media (a rapidly-growing software company)
If you'd like to receive customized home search options as soon as they come on the market, click here to sign up; or, if you'd like to take the next step in your search for Kelowna homes, contact Jeff Creamer, licensed REALTOR® by filling out this form, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone or text at 250-575-7112. Jeff would be happy to assist more 'techies' in relocating to Kelowna.