City and regional officials are jumping for joy after the federal government chose Kelowna as one of the branch locations for the newly announced Pacific Economic Development Agency, also known as PacifiCan.
Mélanie Joly, who serves as the national minister of economic development and official languages, introduced PacifiCan on Thursday morning in Surrey. She also announced the creation of Prairies Economic Development Canada, which will help with business in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
It marks the first time in more than 30 years that the federal government has enhanced its economic development presence and services in Western Canada.
In addition to Kelowna, PacifiCan will have service locations in Victoria, Surrey, Campbell River, Prince Rupert, Fort St. John, Prince George and Cranbrook. It will build on Western Economic Diversification Canada, which has been around for 34 years, working closely with B.C. businesses, innovators, and communities; promoting connections and investments to foster economic growth; and helping organizations navigate federal programs and policies.
“As Canada’s most entrepreneurial region and a leader in economic recovery, Kelowna and the Central Okanagan is a natural fit for a branch office of PacifiCan,” Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said in a press release.
“This new agency and branch will build on existing momentum in our economy and ultimately create more meaningful engagement between regional businesses and the federal government.”
The Regional District of Central Okanagan Economic Recovery Task Force, Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, UBC Okanagan, Accelerate Okanagan and area chambers of commerce have spent the last year pushing for a Central Okanagan office branch location.
“We are thrilled by today’s announcement of a PacifiCan office in the Central Okanagan,” RDCO chair Gail Given said. “The regional economic recovery task force has encouraged the federal government to recognize the Central Okanagan’s economic strength by establishing a branch of the new agency in the region.
“We’re gratified that Minister (Mélanie) Joly has supported our request as demonstrated by today’s announcement.”
The feds announced their regional development plan in this year’s budget, when they pledged $553.1 million over five years for PacifiCan, starting in 2021-22, and $110.6 million ongoing.
The service locations in Kelowna and other B.C. communities will be launched over a period of months.
“British Columbia’s economy is growing and diversifying more each day, requiring a tailored approach that considers its needs and seizes its opportunities,” Joly said. “We are proud to be investing in the economic future of innovators, businesses, and communities across British Columbia with the creation of PacifiCan.
“For more than 30 years WD has done tremendous work in the West, and this is the beginning of an exciting new chapter.”