The Kootenay Outdoor Recreation Enterprise (KORE) hosted its Outdoor Rec-Tech Summit at the Kimberley Conference Center over the weekend – a unique conference that welcomed entrepreneurs involved in outdoor recreation design and manufacturing.
READ MORE: New ‘KORE’ initiative aims to bring outdoor industry to Kimberley as economic development
Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick is KORE’s board chairman and said this came about when he was approached three years ago by Matt Mosteller and Kevin Pennock who had the idea of using Kimberley’s natural resources as an economic strategy by they attract designers of outdoor gear and are among the manufacturers.
“I was excited because I was trying to find ways to diversify our tax base here in the Kimberley through adequate industry and create more jobs outside of the service sector,” McCormick told the Bulletin at Thursday’s summit. “That’s why I was very happy about it early on and became one of the founding members of the board.”
The conference is the culmination of two years of work by KORE project manager Kevin Pennock in establishing the cooperation.
“We have more than 50 gear manufacturers in East and West Kootenays and they all came together here along with many people from outside the Kootenay region to work together, talk about similar interests and look for ideas on how to expand theirs company,” McCormick said.
In Spring 2022, KORE hosted a Maker’s Market in downtown Kimberley, which gave around a dozen Kootenay-based gear makers a chance to showcase their wares. McCormick said this market served as an early precursor to the October summit.
READ MORE: Kootenay entrepreneurs showcase outdoor gear at KORE Makers Market in Platzl
“It wasn’t so much a dry run, but it really showed the value of creating a much larger conference for transmission manufacturers in the region,” he explained. “We’ve had excellent feedback from those who have been here and we have used a lot of that experience to build what we have here today.”
The summit featured around 20 presentations, as well as numerous panel discussions from a variety of speakers, including Dustin Adams of Kamloops-based carbon fiber bike maker We Are One Composites, who spoke early Thursday on the benefits and limitations of the reshoring industry.
This was a very relevant topic to start with as Adams was able to talk about the ins and outs and realities of starting a gear manufacturing or engineering business in a community like Kimberley.
Other speakers included Selkirk College’s Kamren Farr, Mitacs researcher Danielle Wiest, KUMA Outdoor Gear’s Robin Gomme, Pallas Snowboards’ Steph Nitsch and eCommerce Canada’s David Nagy.
“These are passionate entrepreneurs,” McCormick said. “There’s an energy around people who will risk all of their livelihoods to pursue their passion and turn it into a business that other people can share in. You can feel the vibe and it’s really a lot of fun to be with these people.”
Most of the attendees and speakers were from the Kootenays, but there were also a good number from the Lower Mainland, Vancouver and the island.
There were plenty of opportunities to mingle and socialize with the speakers and each attendee was welcomed to the Kimberley for a post-conference stay and matchday on Sunday.
“This event is the flake that will have a snowball effect across the province,” said KORE Chairman Matt Mosteller. “Incredibly passionate people connecting and sharing their knowledge will drive growth and innovation in the outdoor gear industry in this province.
“It’s a perfect fit for the Kootenays and British Columbia as the outdoor economy is and will continue to be an important rural economy for BC.”
McCormick added KORE’s hope is to form a strong collaboration and attract others, both start-ups and expansions, from other parts of Canada and the US to settle in the Kootenays.
“It’s a great idea, it’s very simple when you think about it, and actually the idea has been hiding here in plain sight for a long time and here we are,” he said.
“We have a number of areas in the province that are thinking of building something very similar to KORE, and I actually think it’s not going too far to consider a province-wide organization at some point. The whole goal here is to support existing businesses and help them grow and then attract other businesses to the area as well.”
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter