Kelowna Not Yet Middle Earth

I parachuted into Kelowna after years of working in Silicon Valley traveling the globe for some of the best companies and VC‘s, and most recently running a high tech incubator in Silicon Valley for the government of New Zealand.  What struck me immediately about Kelowna was the aura of unreality of many locals about the situation here.  Club Penguin only made the unreality worse. There were a number of reasons for this. First, apparently, as I understand it, was the failure of the Okanagan Partnership in 2003, well before I arrived. It was a well-intentioned , but excessively ambitious effort that ultimately failed.

We have not realistically come to terms with the area’s “resources and capabilities,” or with our competitive opportunities.  Until we do so, we are doomed to repeat our failures.  The view of some that we should focus on creating another Club Penguin is complete nonsense.   Many other communities near us in both Canada, and in Washington state have done a much better job of dealing with their reality.  Dare I mention Penticton or Walla Walla, Washington?

I have the deja vu of already doing this for New Zealand.  NZ has a lot to teach us about our local economy. In fact, the Okanagan economy is in many ways a mirror image of New Zealand’s (horticulture, forestry, tourism and wine).  New Zealand has done a much better job at addressing their situation than we have with ours.  The rise of Peter Jackson and the production of LOTR in New Zealand, has led the country to focus on its setting for film production, as did Vancouver and Toronto.  It also spawned WETA, an animation studio in Wellington, among other spin offs.  More importantly, the government has also focused on marketing itself and technologies based on its inherent traditional expertise.

NZ gave up on being Middle Earth Silicon Valley a long time ago.  The Okanagan needs to do the same: realistically focus on local resources and capabilities and exploiting them.