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There is more significance than meets the eye in the peer recognition of Penticton’s Economic Development Officer. 

The Economic Development Association of BC has named one of their peers  - the City of Penticton’s Economic Development Officer – “The Economic Developer of the Year”.  The recognition is for the EDO’s effort that attracted a US company to locate a Call Center in Penticton.    Penticton EDO’s effort is commendable, and presumably the Mayor, Councilors, and Administration all played a role in the US company’s decision. According to press information, the Call Center now employs around 600 people in the Okanagan.  Even if many are part-time jobs, they are in an area where investment in job generating economic production is scarce.  

All indications are that the EDO and Penticton relied very little on Provincial or Federal government transfers to entice and secure the jobs in the area. It would appear instead that Penticton choose a modern economic development model where quality of life, political stability and the tax base depend on private investment in economic production in businesses that distribute real income via employment, rather than tax transfers. Penticton is making healthy strides toward meeting the standard for modern economic development in a democratic mixed open economy (such as Canada).   It is a different approach from the postwar economic development model used in the BC Forest Sector, the Fast Ferries, and other ‘development projects ’ where government subsidies and tax transfers are a major factor. This may be good for a few, but bad for the many, and ultimately increases disparities in opportunities – failing to meet the standards established in the Canadian constitution.  ‘Development’ based on transfers and subsidy fails during good times to encourage long-term investment, adding value, and using fewer resources. During the bad times, it stimulates industry to expect government assistance and bailouts. 

It is only natural that the private sector will pursue tax transfers and grants where available, rather than investing in long-term development of their organization. It is government’s accountability to ensure that transfers meet our constitutional standards while solving identified problems in the economy.  

Penticton’s approach is significantly different from some local governments in the Southern Okanagan such as Summerland to the north and Osoyoos to the south of Penticton, that continue the patronage-driven tax transfer model of the seventies.  

Plaudits to Penticton’s EDO and to a community that practice modern economic development and encourages self-sustaining economic production.


June 17, 2002