KELOWNA, BC – Move over northern California. Already known as “Napa Valley of the North” for its award-winning wineries, the Central Okanagan is set to add the name “Silicon Valley of the North” to its growing list of cross-border credentials.
Long dubbed the “Silicon Vineyard” for its proximity to B.C.’s top wine-growing region, the Okanagan technology sector already boasts a number of successes, most notably Club Penguin, a social networking site for kids that was started by three Kelowna entrepreneurs in 2005 and purchased by Disney for $700 million two years later. That deal, and others, created a ripple effect throughout the local economy and helped cement the region’s credibility as a world-class centre for technology.
Since the late 1990s, the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission has focused on diversifying the regional economy, centered around the development of a strong, sustainable technology sector. They recognized that the development of external relationships between the local technology community and other, more well-established technology centres around the world was critical to the continued growth and sustainability of the sector.
The latest initiative is an ambitious marketing plan to raise the international profile of the local technology community by drawing on the area’s considerable tourism assets and quality of life amenities such as its mild – some would say balmy – climate, numerous lakes and beaches, internationally renowned wineries and premier ski resorts, to attract successful technology CEOs and decision-makers to the region.
Working with Community Futures of Central Okanagan, the Economic Development Commission was able to access funding from the Regional Economic Diversification Initiative of B.C. (REDI) to market the Okanagan Valley as a great place to work, live and play. The “Work Where You Play” campaign was designed to attract new businesses to the region by promoting its quality of life, positive business climate, strong education and health care systems, a lively cultural sector, and a thriving economy.
The project also funded the establishment of Metabridge, a networking conference that provides emerging technology companies in B.C. with opportunities to secure new business leads and gain practical experience in deal making and commercialization. Now in its fourth year, Metabridge organizes an annual, three-day networking conference that brings influential technology leaders to the region to meet directly with B.C. technology firms, representing direct connections to Hewlett-Packard, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Electronic Arts, to name just a few.
The marketing initiative has already yielded some tangible results, says Project Coordinator Michael Blondé who is also the executive director for Metabridge. “The connections made with Silicon Valley technology experts have helped local firms grow their businesses,” he said. “Companies like Vineyard Networks, HuStream, and Summify have taken advantage of new business opportunities that came out of their participation in Metabridge.” See www.metabridge.ca for current activities and events.
|# of project partners||25|
|# of new products/services||16|
|# new/erxpanded businesses||56|
|# jobs created/maintained||509|
|# of new markets||31|