The Kootenay Outdoor Recreation Enterprise (KORE) held their Outdoor Rec-Tech Summit over the weekend at the Kimberley Conference Centre — a unique conference that welcomed outdoor recreation design and manufacturing entrepreneurs.
Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick is the director of the board for KORE, and said that came to be when he was approached three years ago by Matt Mosteller and Kevin Pennock who had an idea of utilizing Kimberley’s natural assets as an economic strategy by attracting outdoor gear designers and manufacturers to the are.
“I got excited about it because I’ve been trying to look for ways to have appropriate industry diversify our tax base here in Kimberley, create more jobs beyond the service sector,” McCormick told the Bulletin at the Summit on Thursday. “So I got really excited about this early and became one of the founding board members.”
The conference, he said, is the culmination of two years of work from KORE project manager Kevin Pennock in building the collaborative.
“We have more than 50 gear manufacturers throughout the East and West Kootenays and they’ve all come together here along with actually a lot of folks from outside the Kootenay area to collaborate, talk about like interests and look for ideas on how to expand their businesses,” McCormick said.
In the spring of 2022, KORE held a Maker’s Market in Kimberley’s downtown core, giving around a dozen Kootenay-based gear makers the chance to showcase their wares. McCormick said that this market served as an early forerunner to the October Summit.
“It was not so much a dry run but it really showed the value in creating a much larger conference for gear manufacturers in the area,” he explained. “We had outstanding feedback from those that were here and we used a lot of that experience to build what we have here today.”
The summit featured around 20 presentations, plus numerous panel discussions from a wide variety of speakers including Dustin Adams from Kamloops-based carbon fibre bike manufacturing company We Are One Composites, who spoke early on Thursday about the benefits and limits of reshoring industry.
This was a very pertinent subject to start out on, as Adams was able to talk about the pros, cons and realities of what starting a gear manufacturing or design business in a community such as Kimberley.
Other speakers included Kamren Farr of Selkirk College, Mitacs researcher Danielle Wiest, Robin Gomme of KUMA Outdoor Gear, Steph Nitsch of Pallas Snowboards and David Nagy of eCommerce Canada.
“These are passionate entrepreneurs,” McCormick said. “There’s an energy around folks who put all of their livelihoods on the line to fulfill their passion and turn that into a business that other people can share in, you feel the vibe and it’s really a lot of fun being around these people.”
Most of the attendees and speakers were from the Kootenays but there was also a good number from the Lower Mainland, Vancouver and the Island.
There was plenty of opportunities for mingling and networking between speakers, and every attendee was welcomed for a stay and play day in Kimberley on the Sunday after the conference.
“This event is the flake that will have a snowball effect across the entire province,” said KORE board chair Matt Mosteller. “Incredibly passionate people, connecting and sharing their knowledge will drive growth and innovation in the outdoor gear economy across this province.
“It is a perfect match for the Kootenays and British Columbia as the outdoor economy is a vital rural economic driver today and into the future for B.C.”
McCormick added KORE’s hope is to form a strong collaborative and attract others, both business startups and expansions, from other parts of Canada and the U.S. to locate in the Kootenays.
“It’s an awesome idea, it’s very simple when you think of it, and actually the idea has been hiding in plain sight here for a long time and here we are,” he said.
“We have a number of areas in the province that are looking at setting up something very similar to KORE and in fact I don’t think it takes too much of a jump to look at a provincial-wide organization at some point. The whole goal here is to support existing businesses and help them grow and then also attract other businesses into the area.”