Kelowna Economy: Top Industries, Biggest Employers, & Business Opportunities

Posted by Dave Kotler on Monday, December 14th, 2020 at 3:34pm.

Kelowna Economy Guide

Kelowna, British Columbia, is the principal city in the Okanagan Valley. The city is experiencing growth and currently has a population of 142,146. It is part of the valley's greater metro area, which has a population of 217,000.

The service sector dominates Kelowna employment, a testament to the area's thriving tourism industry. The city's location in the valley and on the shores of Okanagan Lake has made it a favourite destination for water sports, biking, hiking and golf, as well as skiing and snowboarding. Those considering a relocation to Kelowna may appreciate the following information about Kelowna's economy.

Kelowna Industries

Mining served as an early force in the Kelowna economy. This led to the establishment of agriculture and a small service industry to meet the needs of miners. While agriculture continues to play an important role, the valley enjoys a more diverse economy today.

Number of People Employed By Kelowna Top Industries

Kelowna's commercial fruit production got a foothold in the 1920s and remains a vibrant part of the area's economy today, including production of fruit, wine, and ciders. Because of the valley's extended growing season and premium cultivars, many of its products are in demand worldwide. Agriculture in the valley employs about 4,500 residents.

Set on the shores of scenic Okanagan Lake, tourism and associated service industries have played an increasingly important role in Kelowna's economy, attracting not only visitors from Canada but worldwide. Tourism in the greater metro area has been a $1 billion a year industry since 2016. In Kelowna specifically, the tourism industry has accounted for $810 million in economic impact and about 8,350 jobs.

Healthcare is estimated to account for about 26 percent of all job opportunities in the Okanagan Valley. The primary employers are the Kelowna General Hospital and University of British Columbia's Southern Medical Clinical Academic Campus.

Kelowna continues to have a strong manufacturing sector and is a growing hub for aerospace-related companies meeting the needs of the aviation and defence markets. KF Aerospace is the region's largest private employer, but the aerospace sector also attracts a growing number of smaller companies, as well as research and development investment.

Kelowna is considered the third-largest, fastest-growing technology center in all of British Columbia. Anchor companies like Disney Interactive and QHR Technologies drive the sector, but the industry is also fed by a growing number of innovative startups, thanks to Accelerate Okanagan, the region's incubator for technology-enabled businesses. The economic impact of the sector is estimated at about $1.7 billion.

Top Industries in Kelowna

  • Health care
  • Manufacturing
  • Technology
  • Agriculture
  • Tourism

Top Employers

Largest Employers in Kelowna, BCThe leading employers in Kelowna are reflective of the region's agriculture and aerospace sectors.

Top of the list is Kelowna Flightcraft Group of Companies with 1,000 employees. Also known as KF Aerospace, the company was founded over 50 years ago. KF Aerospace started out fixing aircraft in the valley and is today a world-renown provider of aircraft maintenance and engineering. The company is known for innovative aircraft solutions that serve the military, commercial, and corporate sectors. KF Aerospace's operations today focus on aircraft maintenance and modifications, as well as military aircrew training and air cargo leasing and operations.

BC Tree Fruits is Kelowna's second-largest employer. The company operates three packing facilities and six receiving facilities and employs 500. As a cooperative, over 400-plus member-growers produce fruit and are responsible for product care, picking, and transporting. The marketing and operations side of the co-op provides promotion, packaging, and consumer transport. The co-op helps to ensure its growers are equipped with the latest technology and other tools necessary for successful orchard production.

Another entry from the agriculture sector, Sun-Rype Products Ltd is Kelowna's third-largest employer, with 400 workers. Sun-Rype is a Canadian snack and beverage company with headquarters in Kelowna. The company was launched in 1946 when area fruit growers created BC Fruit Processing Ltd. for apple juice, which they named Sun-Rype. Today, the company offers a wide variety of fruit juices and snacks, in addition to adding new non-fruit product categories.

Located in West Kelowna, Alpine Aerotech is Kelowna's fourth-largest employer and retains 140 employees. The company has operated for 30 years and provides comprehensive, worldwide helicopter support and aircraft maintenance services.

Additional Large Companies in Kelowna

  • Anodyne Electronics Manufacturing Corp.
  • Reidco Metal Industries Ltd.
  • Campion Marine Inc.
  • Northside Industries
  • BC Hydro
  • TransLink
  • University of British Columbia

Information via

Kelowna Economy Facts and Figures

The cost of living in Kelowna is significantly below the Canadian average, and lower than the cost of living index in cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto.

Unemployment Rate in Kelowna

Despite this lower cost of living, housing costs in Kelowna are high. This is true all across British Columbia. Median home prices in Kelowna are in the $650,000 range, with luxury homes and new construction homes selling for even more.

Consumer prices in Kelowna average about 10.82 percent lower than in Vancouver. Grocery prices in Kelowna are nearly 20 percent lower than in Vancouver, and rent prices are about 31.25 percent lower in Kelowna than in Vancouver.

The unemployment rate in Kelowna is 3.3 percent. The median household income is $94,629. Kelowna has one of the top job markets in Canada, ranking number three overall.

The average hourly rate in Kelowna is $20.42. Some average hourly pay rates for popular occupations include $18 per hour for administrative assistants, $25 for carpenters, and $22 for office managers. Medical office assistants average about $20 per hour, certified dental assistants bring home $24 per hour, and electricians earn $29 per hour, on average.

Some highest-paying careers in the province include social worker, with a median hourly wage of $32 per hour; industrial engineers, with a median hourly wage of $35; post-secondary administrator, with a median of $36.62 per hour earnings; and software engineer, at $57.69 per hour. The sales tax rate is 7 percent.

Living and Working in Kelowna

Kelowna's economy is diverse, relying on such industries as agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, tourism and services, and technology. The greater metro area is the third-largest metropolitan area in British Columbia, trailing Vancouver and Victoria. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in North America.

If the opportunities in Kelowna excite you, contact the agents at at 250-999-9844 to get in touch with a local real estate agent who can help you find the perfect home in Kelowna today.

Dave Kotler

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