Vernon economy cooling down, but city officials still hopeful for 2024

Vernon economy cooling

Chelsey Mutter

Vernon’s economy is cooling, but the overall outlook is still good.

That's according to John Perrott, economic development and tourism manager, who says the city’s economy is slowing to a more normal pace.

This trend parallels what’s happening on a national level as high interest rates are causing a cool down of housing and development.

“We’re usually a little bit more well insulated in the Okanagan compared to other parts of Canada, but for the most part, I think things are looking maybe a bit softer, but overall reasonably positive heading into the new year,” Perrott said.

Perrott recently completed a business walk where city staff spoke with local business owners for a report presented to council. He said about 80 per cent of businesses expect revenue to stay the same or increase in 2024.

Still, Vernon businesses are facing increased cost pressures and staffing challenges.

“For some business owners, it is a challenging time to stay in business and really exceed in what they’re doing,” Perrott said.

“Over the last three years, through the pandemic and through recovery, our businesses have done really amazing things here so I remain optimistic that our businesses will be able to meet the challenge.”

He acknowledged the importance of foundational components in the community like medical care and access to early childhood education. He said those elements are “really critical” for people looking to move into the community, or those who are deciding whether to stay or leave the area.

“We're working with our economic development partners like Community Futures in North Okanagan, the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business Association to look at are there programs, services or projects, and can we help to keep some of those in there or to help grow and develop replacement opportunities,” Perrott said.

The recently completed business walk found that one of the biggest challenge facing downtown Vernon businesses is finding employees.

Coun. Akbal Mund was surprised by this finding at Monday’s council meeting, but Perrott said it’s not just finding applicants that’s the issue. Businesses aren’t seeing the same number of qualified applications come through the door, and are needing to work harder to find the right staff.

Perrott explained Vernon uses the Thompson Okanagan unemployment rate rather than having its own. According to WorkBC, the unemployment rate is 3.5 per cent as of September this year, something Perrott said makes the market really tight.

The city does track job postings in Vernon. Since October, the 12 month average was 550 job postings going up per month.

“Considering we have about 3,300 business licenses, to do some quick math, it's basically every business has hired at least, or posted, two jobs per business on average this year.”

The sheer number of openings, said Perrott, is something businesses aren’t necessarily equipped to deal with.

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