Infrastructure matters

City-lead Infrastructure – Driving the Local Economy

Pipes, roads, buildings, bridges and a lot of other things above and below ground are referred to as a city’s infrastructure. In Kelowna’s case, the city has invested millions building and maintaining infrastructure indispensable to the daily lives of all residents and businesses in the city of Kelowna. But infrastructure is also critical to the competitiveness of the local economy and the quality of life we enjoy in Kelowna.

The 2030 Infrastructure Plan covers the City’s infrastructure investment of $1 billion for the next 15 years (2016-2030) and was developed to align with the objectives of the City’s Official Community Plan and Council and Corporate priorities. On average over the next 15 years, the annual budget is forecasted to be $70 million per year with three quarters going to replace existing infrastructure and meet infrastructure demands as the city grows.

Here are a few reasons why infrastructure development is crucially important to the City of Kelowna and why you should consider getting involved to learn more about the process. See the 2030 Infrastructure Plan to experience what decisions go into balancing the budget.

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The value of travel time: Traffic congestion costs the local economy $200 million dollars per year, estimated to rise to $353 million in 2030 according to a study completed by the City of Kelowna and the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission. Better transportation systems contribute to reduced traffic congestion and improved productivity.

Improving the way labour markets function: An effective transportation system allows workers to seek employment with a wider range of choices based on access.

Facilitating housing choice: Home buyers are naturally attracted to residential areas with better urban infrastructure and amenities. Richard Florida in his works on the Creative Class writes about the attraction of cities with range and mix of housing types and densities required to satisfy underlying demand.  

Promoting economic development: Public infrastructure investment is imperative to promote private investment and economic development in the community. City entities like the Dark Fibre network – a 13-kilometre fibre optic network designed to move vast quantities of data – helped motivate Bardel Entertainment, a Vancouver-based animation firm, to expand their business in downtown Kelowna.

Attracting talented and creative migrants: Great public infrastructure attracts young and talented migrants by improving urban amenities and standard of living. The increasing population of talented and creative workers will promote growth. With 55,000 new workers needed in the Valley by 2020, the quality of life that is created by infrastructure projects becomes a crucial element in attracting workforce.

Improving equality: A recent empirical study from the Institute of Policy Studies shows the impact of infrastructure development on economic growth and income distribution. It concludes that in addition to increasing Gross Domestic Production growth, effective infrastructure investment helps close the gap on income inequality.

Accommodating aging population: As Canadian baby?boomers age, the demand for transportation infrastructure will increase. Safer roads and pedestrian paths and more user?friendly and accessible public transit systems will become critically important across the community.

Thinking about business development and City investments in the infrastructure, a primary example of the impact can be seen at Kelowna International Airport (YLW). A study completed by InterVistas assessed the total economic impact of YLW at $610 million and more than 2,700 full-time jobs. As we look to create a more wired city, the Dark Fibre Network saves money with the virtual connection of city buildings and gives the City of Kelowna tools to make local services more accessible. For example, installing sensors in city infrastructure could allow you to check online for space in the parkade before you leave home or check your smart phone to see when the next transit bus is due. 

The applications are limitless. So now is the time to get involved and provide input in what infrastructure the City should invest in, and how critically important it is to all our futures.