On the other hand, I’m getting messages like this from local business owners:
Many local eateries are voluntarily moving to close dine-in (and do take-out) in order to flatten the curve and encourage social distancing.
Vernon restaurants, bars, cafes, and services are hurting. 💔
Daily revenues are already down 50% or more. 😳
Most will have to lay off their staff.
Many have decided to suspend operations.
Some likely won’t make it through this.
In the best of times, main street businesses operate on slim margins. They’re all scrambling to figure this out.
The government has promised some help, but none of them knows what that means.
We need to help!
Here’s what we can do right now to help:
Order gift cards online.
Order take-out as much as you can (if they’re still open).
Encourage them. Tell them you care.
Here are some businesses I’ve been in touch with, and ways they’re asking for help:
Andrew, at Ratio Coffee & Pastry
“Please, if you can, tell people to pre-order donuts for tomorrow (order form will be up shortly). Also, we’re going to try to do online pizza orders (for pickup). You can still take drinks to go right now!”
“Please tell folks to grab cans UnderGround Kombucha when they shop. We are in Askews, Butcher boys, Safeway, Nature’s Fare, Railtrail cafe, Quality Greens, Choices and Lakeview markets. Also, we will be selling bombers and new growler starting tomorrow by request for pickup in the afternoon.”
“If you are in a position to order food to go or delivery, please do so not just from us, but from all the remaining restaurants in town! You can also buy gift cards now that you know you will use later. The government has announced funding to support businesses but no information on how to access this has been released as of yet, so we are all hoping to weather the storm.”
“Starting tomorrow we will be offering a special takeout menu for family-style, healthy, local food. We will offer delivery or even pick up out the back door. We are taking so many extra precautions to keep everyone safe.”
“We are only about 11 days behind Italy and generally on track to repeat what is unfortunately happening there and throughout much of the rest of Europe very soon.”
BC’s provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry made some good initial recommendations. These included “wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.” She’s also issued a public health order restricting events over 250 50 people. But these guidelines aren’t enough.
She, and the federal officials, need to issue stricter health orders: they need to tell people to stay home.
The AP has reported that the recent rise in deaths in Italy is because they did not implement strict enough restrictions, soon enough:
“The death toll rose by 175. Authorities had predicted that Italy would still see a jump in cases despite a national lockdown. They cited irresponsible behavior by many citizens, who despite the earlier warnings not to gather in large numbers, headed to beaches or ski resorts, and hung out together in town squares, especially after the closure of schools.”
Just two days ago, Dr Bonnie Henry was encouraging people to go skiing:
“This virus does not transmit when people are outdoors, so go outside and play with your family, go up to our ski hills, go up to Whistler.”
If we don’t want to replicate Italy’s mistakes, our leaders need to be swift and severe. Dr Bitton’s recommendation is:
“We must move to pandemic mitigation through widespread, uncomfortable, and comprehensive social distancing. That means not only shutting down schools, work (as much as possible), group gatherings, and public events, but also making daily choices to stay away from each other as much as possible.”
We need to realize that two weeks ago, Italians were sanguine like us. They were thinking and acting like the coronavirus was no big deal:
All those people “just chilling” and not taking the threat seriously is what’s lead to the death rates we see today:
Again, Canada is only about 11 days behind Italy:
Spain’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by over 1,500 in the past day (source). In response, health officials immediately imposed a lockdown, as reported by the AP:
“People will be allowed to leave their homes only to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to hospitals and banks, or take trips related to the care of the young and the elderly. All schools and universities were closed, along with restaurants, bars, hotels and other non-essential retail businesses.”
This Washington Post article provides the best visualization I’ve found for explaining how #covid19 infection spreads, and why extreme social distancing works:
If BC and Canadian health officials don’t act quickly, with extreme measures, we will find ourselves exactly where Italy is today. Our epidemic trajectory is on the same track as every other country, except for South Korea’s.
I’ll leave with these words from Professor Scott Galloway:
“[Leaders] hesitate to overcorrect because at the time of the decision it seems excessive. It doesn’t in retrospect. You MUST overcorrect.”
Stay safe, stay healthy, and whenever possible, stay home. These next few weeks (before we know how many are actually infected) are key.
Some news about the new Innovation Center in Vernon, BC.
First: the project is going forward! It’s going to be downtown, in the old Naked Pig space!
I’ve seen the plans, and they look really neat. This will be a high-visibility touchstone for the tech community here. 👍
I was on the steering committee for the Innovation Center. As I understand it, the purpose of the centre is to support the growing tech community in Vernon.
The project has two main pillars:
the building itself (meeting space, hot desks, team offices, lounge)
the program coordinator
The need for a Community Lead
In our committee meetings, I emphasized the need for a strong program coordinator. I’ve seen, first-hand, how skilled community leaders can meaningfully set the tone for a community.
For example, Dr Lincoln Smith leads the Kamloops Innovation Center. Over his tenure, he’s created a really incredible environment for the tech folks there. He recognized early on that it’s the people that matter most; programs need to match the culture they serve. What works in Kelowna likely won’t work in Vernon, Salmon Arm, or Kamloops.
We need our own “Dr Lincoln” here in Vernon! Somebody who can:
meet locals where they’re at and respond with training, events, and mentorship that fit our community,
relate to the unique demographics here in Vernon (we have lots of folks in their 40s, who have kids and a mortgage, but also a growing number of younger couples who are moving here for the lifestyle),
act as the social glue between the different individuals, companies, and resources here in town,
welcome out-of-town visitors who are considering a move to Vernon.
The job posting for this position has just gone live:
There are more electric vehicles in Vernon than you might have thought!
Tons of folks came to check out Teslas, Leafs, Bolts, and other cars at the EV show on May 24.
Francois (from the @teslainvernon Twitter account) has some great insights about owning an electric vehicle.
How much CO2 do you produce when you charge your Tesla?
British Columbians have some of the cleanest energy in North America. The BC Hydro grid emits only 11 grams of CO2 per kWh of electricity. That means that driving a Tesla model 3 results in 1.65 grams of CO2 per KM. (Source)
Is there good charging infrastructure for EVs in Vernon?
There’s a high-speed DC charger (Chademo & CCS) behind the old Greyhound station and there are two Level 2 chargers at City Hall parking lot. Okanagan College also has some chargers.
A few local hotels and car dealerships also have chargers.
Charging is free at the fast DC charger in Vernon as well as at City Hall.
But, charging at home is the easiest. I charge at home except when on a road trip. Charging at home is so cheap that it doesn’t matter. I spend more $$ on Tim Horton’s coffee than I do filling up my car.
Kelowna has a bunch of chargers. A bunch more are getting installed at the airport and should be ready soon.
Deciding to move to a new town, even a place as beautiful as Vernon, BC, isn’t easy!
Before I moved, my biggest concern was that there wouldn’t be a local tech community.
I’d been working as a Product Manager in Edmonton’s burgeoning startup scene. Right before I’d left, Startup Edmonton a “community hub for hackers, artists + entrepreneurs” established itself. Edmonton, especially 104th Street, was an exciting place to be as a tech worker.
I was worried that a move to Vernon meant giving up that sense of community.
I was wrong!
Early in 2012, I emailed Kevin Poole. Kevin works for Vernon Economic Development. He did a great job of welcoming me to the city and introduced me to Kazia Mullin.
Kazia and I were interested in trying to build the local tech community. We wondered if there were other people like us.
We started emailing anyone we could find that seemed connected to tech. What we found surprised us: world-class software developers, designers, creatives, and business people living right in Vernon (most of whom were working remotely, from their homes).
Since then, I’ve met folks who have worked with Tumblr, WordPress (Automattic), Apple, SAP, Yahoo, and Oracle.
Forming the community
In the beginning, the biggest need wasn’t a building, programs, or funding. We just needed a regular place to meet. Everyone was working from home but didn’t know each other.
Startup Vernon was really a response to that: we started putting on local events (Geek Beers, a Remote Work panel, and a series of programming workshops), blogging and even did a TV appearance.
Geek Beers, in particular, became a central meeting place for local tech people. Our first meetings attracted 5-10 people. Now, in 2019, we regularly see groups as big as 30!
Effects on the community
Over the years, this momentum has begun to bear fruit. Now, I regularly receive emails like this, from tech people in the UK, USA, and Canada. They want to move to Vernon!
We’ve also started to see projects, companies, and partnerships birthed out of the Startup Vernon community. For example, Cowork Vernon is a private coworking space for tech consultants, located on 3000-30th Street. They started as a group of four and now have over 12 members.
This increase in economic activity is encouraging. We’re proving that our focus on building community in Vernon is having an effect. People are hearing that Vernon is a good place to live and that it also has a core tech community. Plus, folks are starting businesses that will benefit the local economy.
Vernon is unique
Kelowna’s focus has been to encourage traditional venture-backed startups. Accelerate Okanagan is guiding local startups, and helping them to be investment ready. Steve Wandler created an excellent conference called Metabridge that brings investors from Silicon Valley to Kelowna every year. Traditionally, they also had a big anchor (Club Penguin) which is helped draw talent to the city.
But Vernon is different than Kelowna.
If you look at Vernon’s history, culture, and the demographics of the people who move here, it’s clear we need to forge a different path.
Vernon is a city of do-it-yourselfers, bootstrappers, and makers.
We’re home to global companies (Kal-Tire, Tekmar, and Tolko). They all started as small businesses and were built from the ground up.
While Club Penguin gets a lot of attention, we’ve seen some big tech acquisitions come out of Vernon:
Immersive Technologies built the first 360˚ full digital camera system (the driving technology behind Google street view). This technology came about by tinkering, experimenting, and building. In 2016, they were acquired for $100 million dollars.
At the end of 2017, AVS Systems, also headquartered in Vernon, was acquired for $45 million.
Vernon is also home to lifelong tech entrepreneurs, and new startups:
Based on this history, there are two ways the community can encourage a tech culture and economy:
Invest in community: should we build an innovation center? What about a makers space? Another coworking location? These are all good ideas, but they should never distract us from the core: people building relationships with people.
Support the makers: There are individuals in Vernon creating really cool technology, products, and projects in their spare time. These folks need to be encouraged, supported and celebrated.
Attract remote workers: I’ve been here since 2012, and almost all of the new tech talent that’s moving here is working remotely for companies elsewhere: San Francisco, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Portland, Boulder, etc… The community needs to target this group, and then do a great job of welcoming them when they arrive.
There is a tech community in Vernon, BC, and it’s awesome.
In a few weeks, North Okanagan residents will go to referendum to vote on borrowing $25 million towards the $40 million cost to build an art gallery, museum and performance space that will let us appreciate culture and heritage, and access far more exhibitions and programs.
Between now and Oct. 20, we need all the help we can get spreading the word about all the incredible ways this cultural centre will benefit Greater Vernon.
Please help however you can:
Here’s a chance to play a part in changing the course of Greater Vernon’s future and gain a beautiful downtown building with endless benefits for our community.
Can you lend some of your time and talents for this turning point?
As we prepare to launch our campaign, we’re looking for volunteers to help with:
Communication & information technology
And soon, just about everything else! Even a few hours would mean so much and go such a long way.