Aug 16, 2012 / 8:00 am
I read a story on the weekend about the success of Viking Air in Victoria, with a sale of $30 million to China for Twin Otter Floatplanes they build. They are built at the manufacturing plants in Victoria and Calgary.
It could have been Kelowna. Well let me tell you a story…
It all started in the late 90s. All of a sudden a representative from Piper Aircraft showed up, and the politicians and the city went out of their way to host him and his pals. They had a story to sell, and it was that Piper - a brand known all over the world - was having problems with insurance and was looking for a city to build a plant and manufacture these aircraft. It was quite amazing how we went for this hook line and sinker. Of course no one phoned the plant in Vero Beach, Florida to check on these claims.
I attended a press conference on the lawn in front of the Eldorado Hotel and spotted Barry Lapointe over to the side. Barry, the founder of Kelowna Flightcraft, was best to answer the question: “Could this be all true?”
And the answer “No.”
That was good enough for me.
I can still remember the man on the microphone, I think he was from Calgary, he shouted out, “We’re coming to Kelowna and I am buying a house tomorrow.” That certainly didn’t happen; neither did the manufacturing plant.
These promoters then moved their selling skills to Claresholm, Alberta where they sold the towns people on building aircraft in their backyard. This was once an air training centre during the last world war. There was an airfield there and some buildings. They never built any planes and the locals invested millions of dollars and that was all lost.
But wait, this story isn’t over.
It was now 2003 and same scenario all over again. This time a Vancouver lawyer was involved and he was trying to convince those in charge that he could bring manufacturing rights to build the de Havilland Beaver to Kelowna. He already had a name, Beaver Aircraft Canada.
Get this - he wanted to buy the Western Star plant and build the aircraft there. Yes, the building on Enterprise Way.
I know your first question: These aircraft, how do they get to the airport? I guess they were going to be trucked out to the airport and they would attach the wings out there. I really don’t know.
There was pressure on the government in Victoria to set up a program to train aircraft technicians to work in the new plant and manufacture these Beavers.
Penticton’s Rick Thorpe was the Minister involved, and he wasn’t buying the story, nor did the $500,000 that was needed to set up the training program. He saved us from ourselves.
So there you have it, the history of our manufacturing airplanes.
Maybe it’s time to open the doors again. I wonder if Boeing is looking for a place to build The Dreamliner?
The very successful Viking Air of Victoria is building the de Havilland Otter in their plants in Victoria and Calgary.
I got this email from Dominic Ramponi from his new home in Yorkton. He moved there last fall with his wife to start a franchise of Budget Blinds. I believe the Ramponi family has four of these franchises in Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
Good to see that you are back writing stuff.
Things in Saskatchewan are booming.
Sask. has oil, diamonds, uranuim and potash. A builder in Esterhazy (where the potash mine is) is renting out a 1500 sq. ft. house (new) to 3 miners for $ 3,300.00 per month. And new homes in Yorkton (where we are), 2000 sq. ft. are selling for around $ 450,000 to $ 500,000... Crazy.
We are really busy and are going to have to hire some employees pretty soon.
If you go to the website saskjobs.ca there are over 10,000 jobs needed to be filled in the province of Sask.
A local farm equipment dealer is offering a $ 5,000.00 signing bonus for a licensed mechanic.
I miss those Saturday morning coffee sessions in the back room at Ramponi’s fruit and vegetable store on Gordon Dr.
While B.C. may not get the oil royalties from the Northern Gateway pipeline that Alberta will get, a new study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) suggests it would benefit more than Alberta in terms of job creation and overall gross domestic product.
Word came that Applebee’s the restaurant chain has secured a site in Kelowna for a franchise location for the eatery out on Hwy 97 N.
I hope it’s true; they make some good food.
Three-hour closing blockbuster show to end the Olympics from London was quite sensational. The show itself had to rehearse in a parking lot nearby. The reason of course was because there was 14 days of track and field events in that stadium. The producers finally got to see the show on camera about 5pm., three hours before the international audience saw everything on their TV sets.
Lots of British stars, and the presentation was quite spectacular; fireworks was well done. It was just too long.
How does Rio top this one?
It was a good two weeks.
It’s hard to believe with his track record that people are still giving Peter Pocklington money. But here we have a complaint from Arizona that he and his partner raised $4 plus million for surface gold mining.
I was in Palm Springs about two years ago when he made a deal with the courts to pay his back income tax and other things and pledged his two Stanley Cup rings. When I was there I tried to go to the court but that was not possible. He pleaded guilty to perjury in 2010.
He had a home here on the lake for many years. Sold everything including the boat and furniture for just under $1 million I’m told.
It looks like the official opening of Urban Fare, the new Jim Pattison’s food market in the Mission Shopping Centre, will now be the first part of Sept. I know they were trying for earlier but the workload just caught up with them.
The official word has not come yet but the company is very proud of their restaurant and want it ready for Sept. From what I can gather it will add a new dimension to dinning out in the Mission. I am anxious to see the finished product. The changes are quite significant.
Was it a big surprise to the Rona Group when Lowes laid $1.8 billion on the table and said we’re ready to buy the company? Lowes, who came into Canada just a few years ago, now have thirty stores and they are trying to expand that chain across the land, and finding attractive store locations is difficult in most cities.
Rona is a different operation than Lowes has ever dealt with in the past as the world’s second largest home improvement chain. This would be a less expensive deal and faster than building new stores.
You have been driving by this building on KLO and Benvoulin for weeks now as it took shape, and you wondered what is this all about. Rick Serani and his company Serani Bros Construction - the builder of many fine custom homes in the area for thirty years - is the owner.
This is being built as professional space and he already has doctors on the top floor. It is strata space so you can own your own space. There is 9,000 sq. ft. of space.
Joe Ungaro of Royal LePage who is selling the property told me there could be a liquor wine and beer store on the main floor. There are two 600 sq. ft. residential suites in the bldg.
And what is the tower for? It’s quite the room.
Read more John Thomson articles
- John Thomson's I Didn't Know That! Apr 18
- John Thomson's I Didn't Know That! Apr 10
- John Thomson's I Didn't Know That! Apr 4
- John Thomson's I Didn't Know That! Mar 28
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