Vernon looks to immigration to boost economy

posted on June 2, 2019

By Info News |

The City of Vernon is looking overseas for entrepreneurs ready and willing to invest their cash into the city.

The City recently signed up to the Entrepreneur Immigration pilot project, a provincial initiative aimed at attracting foreign business people to set up shop in the city. While programs for foreign investors wanting to come to Canada have been around for years, the new pilot project focuses on small businesses in cities like Vernon where the population is less than 75,000.

“This is a great opportunity to bring new businesses and start new businesses within communities outside of the major centres,” City of Vernon manager of economic development and tourism Kevin Poole said.

“We’re a baby boom population in Canada as a whole, and in the Okanagan is known as a great retirement destination, so we have a lower participation rate in our labour force compared to other communities,” Poole said. “If we left it to our own we would shrink, we need to attack others in from other provinces, other communities or even on an international scale.”

Since the launch of the project in March, the City has received over 200 emails and had around 30 business plans submitted. Poole said no one had any idea the project would attract so much interest.

The program is aimed at food, manufacturing, merchant stores and professional scientific and technical services. There are roughly 325 positions open province-wide for foreign business people. Applicants must invest a minimum of $100,000 and their business must generate at least one full-time job for a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. The criteria also say business owners must live in the community and pass an official language test.

Foreign business owners approved in the pilot project will then have the opportunity to be permanent residents and eventually Canadian citizens.

Poole couldn’t diverge what any of the business plans proposed, but said applications have been received from Iran, India, China and several other countries.

The business plans will be vetted by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Vernon Association, Community Futures North Okanagan and Vernon and District Immigrant Services, which if successful will invite the prospective business owner to visit Vernon. Providing both sides are happy the City gives its support to the province and the wheels of the immigration process start to turn. Poole couldn’t say how long that aspect would take.

Vernon saw its population grow by 1.2 per cent in 2018, slower than the overall growth of B.C. at 1.4 per cent.

The Greater Vernon Chamber general manager Dione Chambers welcomed the program.

“(It will) bring new businesses to the region and offer a bit of an outside perspective,” she said. “It adds a bit of cultural diversity to our region, (and) different employment with these new entrepreneurs coming to our area… there are so many positive factors.”

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