Kelowna business taking plastics from the public to recycle into new products


A new way to recycle

The Rogerie has grown by rescuing plastics directly from landfills and transforming them into 100 per cent renewable products.

But starting Monday, the local business will start accepting clean household plastics from the public. Things like HTP (high technology plastic) or PETG (Polyethylene terephthalate glycol, a food-safe plastic) will be accepted and turned into new products. All you have to do is bring your washed plastics to their location at 103-460 Doyle Avenue, and they’ll do the rest.

“We’ll take it, wash it a second time to make sure it’s really clean, and then we’ll grind it up and use it in our injection molding machine,” said Angela Rogers, the co-founder of The Rogerie.

Currently Angela and her husband Brady sell products such as various planter pots, cups, stemless wine glasses, mugs and teapots and kitchen composters. Angela says the idea to start this business all came to fruition after their wedding.

“We knew we wanted to do something creative, and it was actually after our wedding that we saw how much plastic we had accumulated from gifts and moving so we knew we wanted to do something with it all. We got a little 3D printer that Brady had, and he designed a little planter and we took it to the farmers market. We received a ton of positive reactions and it kind of just grew from there,” said Angela.

The Rogerie previously operated a pop-up location at Orchard Park for six weeks last year, but have now found a permanent home at the downtown Innovation Centre.

Angela mentioned that they have several products in the works that they are putting the final touches on, and to keep an eye out for them this summer. You can see the 3D printers in action starting next week at the store when they add a dozen machines.

Kelowna residents increasingly interested in living downtown


Interest in downtown living



A huge condo project planned for downtown Kelowna is seeing more interest from locals than first expected, according to its developer.

“When we started this thing, I was told that no one from Kelowna would want to buy. We’ve seen the exact opposite,” said Anthony Beyrouti, founder of Orchard Park Properties, the company behind Water Street by the Park.

The 650-unit development at the corner of Water Street and Leon Avenue will feature three towers, the largest being 42-storeys. It is being designed by Vancouver-based Ciccozzi Architecture.

Beyrouti says their sales representatives have seen a deluge of interest since they started taking pre-sale registrations, and Kelowna residents are interested in living downtown.

“They want to be down here. They want to be in the area, walking around,” he said.

Several other downtown condo projects coming online have also sold very well, according to their developers.

Water Street by the Park released their floor plans over the long weekend and work is nearing completion on a sale centre on Leon Avenue.

Beyrouti says they are working towards construction at full speed.

“We want to break timelines like people have never seen,” he said.

He said they plan on breaking ground early next year and completing the first 42-storey tower in two years time.

Okanagan tourism industry hopeful for strong summer


Although COVID-19 still very active across the Okanagan, both Tourism Kelowna and Travel Penticton are both hopeful and confident the region will be a hot spot for tourists this summer.

Despite the optimism, Tourism Kelowna’s Lisanne Ballantyne says it is do or die for many businesses.

“A number of them are in survival mode right now. This year, not even this summer, is going to be crucial if we are going to have long-term recovery. The businesses are trying to make up lost revenue from way back the last March,” Ballantyne said.

Tourism Kelowna says they aren’t worried about the number of visitors coming through, but they will be analyzing where visitors open their wallets.

“Oddly, last summer we had a very high number of visitors coming through even though they weren’t staying in traditional accommodations like hotels. We had a number of visitors staying with friends and family, or at campgrounds, but sadly they weren’t spending at the restaurants and they weren’t spending at the hotels,” Ballantyne stated.

Travel Penticton hopes that this summer will be very similar to 2020.

“We were quite fortunate to have good traffic here in Penticton over the months of July, August and September,” Travel Penticton’s executive director Thom Tischik said.

Although most of the normal events may not be running this summer, both Penticton and Kelowna say the Okanagan’s tourism staples still drive people to the region.

“We still have a lot of the great things to offer like wine, tasting and cycling and the great beaches,” Tischik added.

Ballantyne hopes those with a pent-up travel demand will choose late fall as an option to visit.

“We are one of those areas that has so much to offer a traveller,” she said.

Central Okanagan’s unemployment rate second best in Canada


The Central Okanagan’s unemployment rate fell in March, making it the second lowest mark in the nation among metropolitan areas.

The group of people without work last month in Kelowna and West Kelowna was 5%, which was down from 5.2% in February, according to Statistics Canada. Only Quebec City had a lower unemployment rate at 4.9%.

The Central Okanagan’s work force decreased by 2,600 people last month, and the participation rate, which is the percentage of eligible people working or looking for work, dropped from 64.5% to 63%.

The Thompson Okanagan’s unemployment rate in March was 7.3%, which is down from 7.5% in February.

Nationally, the economy added 303,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate dropped from 8.2% to 7.5%, which is the lowest it has been since the COVID-19 pandemic started more than a year ago. There were about 95,000 more retail jobs for the month, fully recouping losses sustained in January lockdowns.

There was also an employment bump of 21,000 in the accommodation and food services sector, which Statistics Canada noted still leaves that sector the furthest from a full recovery at 24.4%, or 298,000 jobs, below pre-pandemic levels.

— with files from The Canadian Press

Environmental status of Kelowna Tolko mill site still unclear


Status of mill site unknown

It still isn’t clear what kind of contamination, if any, is buried at the old Tolko mill site in Kelowna.

Demolition crews have been dismantling the mill since it was closed in January 2020, sparking discussion of what kind of development is headed for the nearly 40-acre parcel of waterfront property in the city’s north end.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment says Tolko has requested more time to complete its “detailed site investigation” of the property. The report was initially due on Feb. 20, 2021, but the company has requested a one-year extension to that deadline.

A letter from Tolko to the ministry dated Dec. 4, 2020 summarized a preliminary environmental investigation of the old mill site and found 24 areas of potential concern. The preliminary data has classified the site as “non-high” risk.

“Other than what was stated in the letter from Tolko, the responsible party has not submitted the required site investigation information that would allow the ministry to estimate the potential risks to human health and the environment,” the Ministry of Environment said in a statement to Castanet.

“After review of the information provided, the ministry will communicate their expectations to Tolko on submission of the detailed site inspection.”

The provincial government says it is reviewing Tolko’s letter and is “considering next steps” to bring the site into compliance with environmental regulations.

The company was tight-lipped on the status of the property and its potential future last month, one year after demolition began.

As for the value of the property, one forecast suggests the property could be worth upwards of $50 million, however one commercial realtor told Castanet he believes that estimate is incredibly conservative.

The Kelowna Tolko mill started operation in the 1930s.

Kelowna’s unemployment rate still third best mark in Canada

Kelowna jobless rate jumps

Kelowna’s metropolitan area no longer has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada.

Statistics Canada released its February job numbers on Friday, and the Central Okanagan’s jobless rate increased from 4.6% in January to 5.2% last month.

That mark puts Kelowna and area behind Victoria (4.9%) and Quebec City (5%).

Kelowna’s labour force dropped by 1,500 people last month, and the number of unemployed people increased by 600 to 6,100. On the other hand, the region’s participation rate, which is the number of people employed or looking for work, decreased by 600 from January to February.

The good news for the Central Okanagan is the unemployment rate was actually better this February than it was last year at this time, when the jobless rate was 5.5%.

The Thompson Okanagan unemployment rate was 7.5% in February, which was worse than the 6.4% mark of February 2020.

Provincially, B.C. added 26,600 jobs, with the majority of those jobs going to women. This dropped B.C.’s unemployment rate to 6.9% from 8% in January.

“One year into this pandemic, British Columbia has returned to 99.4% of pre-pandemic employment levels,” Ravi Kahlon, B.C. Minister of Jobs, Economy Recovery and Innovation, said in a press release. “B.C.’s economy remains one of the strongest in Canada, having created jobs in each of the past 10 months.”

Nationally, the economy added 259,000 jobs in February, almost wiping out losses sustained over the previous two months. The economy lost almost 213,000 jobs in January as lockdown measures erased months of gains and marked the worst monthly declines since last April.

February’s reopenings reversed that drop with gains largely in Ontario and Quebec, and in sectors highly affected by tightened public health restrictions.

The national unemployment rate fell to 8.2%, the lowest level since March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and down from the 9.4% recorded in January.

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate would have been 10.7% in February had it included in calculations Canadians who wanted to work but didn’t search for a job.

— with files from The Canadian Press

Local program working to get musicians back to work amid COVID-19 pandemic

Elevate your music dreams

A new local program is working to get musicians back to work during a time when the entertainment industry has taken a huge hit amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kelowna’s LMS Entertainment talent agency has launched the Elevate your Music Dreams studio sessions program with the help of Puresound Recording Studios in West Kelowna, which features widely known and professional musicians from the Okanagan.

“I employ approximately 17 different musicians throughout the course of a touring year and to see all of these musicians not playing, not honing their craft, but just sitting at home and basically waiting for this to finish, I thought it was a great time for us to get back and get creative,” says Mike Schell owner of LMS Entertainment.

“Our mandate is to get professional musicians back to work due to the demise of the entertainment industry as a result of COVID-19.”

The program includes cost-effective pricing for artists to record their music, suitable for musicians of any genre or ability. So, if you’re new to creating content, not to worry. A music arranger and session musician will be brought in to help you establish your ideas with instruments, voices and everything needed to create your sound.

“It’s the perfect time to do it while you’re sitting at home. Everybody’s had the last year and a bit to hone their craft. Let’s make some magic. Get in touch with us today and we’ll elevate your musical game,” says Schell.

Along with creating content, artists can also get help with marketing strategies, brand image, photos and more. All packages come with a professional engineer and music producer.

There are four different packages available including the Custom Package for $900 which includes one song mixed and mastered, two session players, one performance video and a promotional photoshoot. The Silver Package for $1,500 includes one song mixed and mastered, a four-piece band, one performance video and a promotional photoshoot.

The Gold Package for $2,500 includes two songs mixed and mastered, a four-piece band, one performance video, a promotional photoshoot and music marketing setup. The Platinum Package for $3,000 includes two songs mixed and mastered, a four-piece band, one performance video, a promotional photoshoot, EPK branding and music marketing setup.

Julie Masi, a multi-Juno award winner and one of the B.C. Interior’s most in demand musicians has joined in as one of the session players to help bring artists’ ideas to life.

“We’re really excited to see who’s going to take part in this and really excited to help any young musicians who are really looking to see what they can do with music,” she says. “All of the musicians that Mike hires are professionals and we’ve all had writing experience and singing and playing, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

In addition to Masi, more local favourites have joined in on the project, including Jimmy LeGuilloux, Dennis Marcenko, Conrad Burek, Sean Bray, Scott Gamble, Aaron Anderson, Peter Freddete and Mike Sanyshyn.

Elevate your Music Dreams is suitable for musicians of any genre, age and ability. To learn more click here.

Kelowna seeking grant funds to connect Rutland active transportation corridor with rail trail

Grant funds for cycling link

The City of Kelowna hopes it can leverage funds from senior levels of government for a project linking the Houghton Road active transportation corridor with the Okanagan Rail Trail.

The project, at a cost of $2.6 million, was approved as part of the city’s 2021 provisional budget adopted last month.

Only about $650,000 was earmarked from taxpayers, with the rest of the funding through existing reserves.

However, city staff is hoping it can successfully obtain a grant through the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream to pay for the project.

According to a report prepared for Monday’s city council meeting, the grant is structured in such a way as to pay for 100 per cent of eligible costs.

If successful, staff say the grant would accelerate the design and construction of active transportation infrastructure in the city’s 10-year capital plan.

Kelowna actor featured in WWII documentary feature film

Local in WWII rescue movie

A film featuring local actor Evan-Riley Brown is set to hit the airwaves next month.

Journey to Royal: a WWII Rescue Mission is the true story of 22-year-old Lt. Royal Stratton, a WWII rescue pilot with the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron.

“The Greatest Generation overcame the Depression and WWII with the same kind of mettle we need to meet the challenges facing our world today,” writes Chris Johnson, writer and director of the film and great-nephew of Lt. Stratton.

The small group of men were stationed in the South Pacific where they flew 862 rescue missions saving 576 lives.

“They did it all without carrying ammunition because in the planes that they were flying, the machine gun has been removed so that they could make space for the people that they were rescuing and bring aboard,” said Mariana Tosca, producer of the film.

“No one is a fan of war, but that’s why I loved it because it didn’t show the gun but it did show the bravery and courage to put someone else before you to save them,” said Brown.

An impressive 1,500 actors auditioned for the film’s 18 roles, but Tosca says Evan-Riley Brown was an easy choice. “There is a strength to his appearance but there is such a soulfulness to his character that it just permeated the room when he came in.”

“I don’t ever want to dishonour any of these men so I do as much research as I can … just try to honour these men that actually went through that — for me I was getting snacks on set, getting sprayed with a hose, it wasn’t that bad and I got to go home at the end of the day,” said Brown.

The movie is a hybrid of a documentary and feature film. The majority of the film is interviews with the surviving members of the squadrons.

The process took a decade and Evan-Riley was on set for two months in California shooting at the March Field Air Museum in a B29.

“We had to get everything right so all of the props that you see are hand built by us, hand-painted by us,” said Tosca.

“My sincerest hope is that people who see our film will feel empowered by those who paved the way so many decades ago,” says Johnson.

The live premiere of the film has been cancelled by the pandemic but Brown says he will enjoy watching the movie with family in Kelowna when it is released. You can purchase the film on DVD, Blue-ray or Video on Demand starting on Feb. 2.

Local YouTuber takes supercars on Kelowna’s Gillard Forestry Road

Supercars on icy local roads

An appropriate winter vehicle is usually recommended for driving on icy forestry roads in the Okanagan. Unless you’re looking to make a popular YouTube video.

A recent video shot on Kelowna’s Gillard Forest Service Road has garnered close to 500,000 views on the DailyDrivenExotics YouTube page. The video titled “Never off road Supercars!” shows a Ferrari and Porsche slipping and sliding their way up an icy hill about three kilometres down the forestry road.

Based in Kelowna since September, Damon Fryer runs the popular YouTube channel. The channel has more than 2.74 million subscribers.

In the recent video published Jan. 3, Fryer and pal Anthony take their Ferrari 488 GTB and Porsche Carrera 4S up the slippery logging road, with the beautiful views of Okanagan Lake behind them.

While the Porsche is actually an all-wheel drive, it’s still a bit out of place in the winter wonderland.

“It looks pretty epic to see these cars in a place they are really not designed for,” Fryer says in the introduction.

The cars slip and and slide their way up the flat portion of the road until they reach the hilled area just past the three-kilometre mark – a hill anyone who’s driven the road in the winter would be familiar with.

Several groups, most who are in four-wheel drive vehicles, are on hand to watch the pair attempt it.

Check out the embedded video above to see how they do.