Foreign investors eye Shuswap

An unusual spike in foreign investment inquiries in Salmon Arm is another sign the local economy is improving.

In a presentation made last week to city council, updating them on activities at the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society (SAEDS), economic development manager Lana Fitt said economic development has responded to 31 investment inquiries this year, many of them from foreign investors.

Fitt explained these inquiries are being facilitated through the Regional Entrepreneur category of the B.C. Provincial Nominee Program.

“That means… they’re directed to purchase a business outside of the Lower Mainland, so Salmon Arm, this whole area, is really appealing because of our proximity to both Calgary and Vancouver…,” said Fitt. “So they have to purchase an existing business and it has to be $200,000 or more and in operation for five years or more. There’s some other eligibility criteria there as well.

“For probably about two or three months, certainly around early springtime, we were seeing a lot of international investors, Asian investors primarily, coming through our office who were looking to come in under that stream. So lots of interest in purchasing an existing business and it did eat up a little bit of the supply we’ve had for businesses for sale in Salmon Arm.”

According to a B.C. government website, BC PNP is designed to “accelerate the Permanent Resident application process for skilled and/or experienced workers, experienced business persons and their family members who want to settle in B.C. permanently.”

In a subsequent Observer interview, Fitt called the increase in foreign investment inquiries seen at the economic development office a new trend, particularly in how it’s come in a large cluster over a short period. Asked why now, Fitt said she believes it has to do with the overall economy in B.C.

“The only thing I’m certainly aware of is the upswing in our economy,” she said. “That seems to be the main point that’s drawing the visitors. I did talk to our representative from the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training… and he indicated that other communities in the region have been seeing the same sort of interest.

“I think it’s throughout the Shuswap/Okanagan area that this is occurring.”

In working with BC PNP applicants, Fitt says SAEDS’ role, among other things, has been to ensure they are a good fit for the community and vice versa.

“What happens is these investors have to do a pre-site visit to the community they’re interested in… They need to get a good understanding of what’s offered in the community as far as education, health care, housing, all of those components, and the province wants to see they’ve done their due diligence in assuring the community is a good fit for them as well, and they understand what the community is all about before they make an investment in it,” said Fitt. “The idea is they want them to be successful in coming to our community, and they want (the business) to be sustainable or larger than it was when they purchased it.”

Fitt adds Salmon Arm, especially given its size, has proven very competitive in offering what PNP applicants, particularly those with families, want.

“Education is always a big question – they’re always really interested in what we have here for opportunities. Many of them are coming with their children, so that’s always a big area of interest for them for sure.”

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