From California to Kelowna: Top 40 profile of Corie Griffiths

Interview by Steve MacNaull, Kelowna Daily Courier

Corie Griffiths fondly remembers relocating to Kelowna a decade-and-a-half ago with just two suitcases. “I moved here from California for love,” said Griffiths with a laugh. “I met the man (Simon) who would become my husband in Napa 15 years ago. He was the B.C. representative for Robert Mondavi Wines and he was in Napa on business.”

The couple first lived in a rented migrant farm workers shack in Southeast Kelowna that had been renovated. Since then they’ve moved many times, changed jobs and added two children, Zachary, 6, and Nathan, 2.

Just before her cross-border move, Griffiths was working for California State Parks in communications. That experience transferred nicely to Canada. She became a community recreational programmer with Central Okanagan Parks and started her career with the Central Okanagan Regional District.

By 2006 she joined the regional district’s economic development arm as research and marketing assistant and was promoted to business development officer by 2008.

When former director Robert Fine moved onto a job with the City of Kelowna, Griffiths was promoted yet again to director of the commission in 2015. In the process, she has become the go-to gal for all things economic in the region.

“The function of the commission and its reach means it’s constantly in the news,” said Griffiths.

“It’s become a recognizable brand.” As such, Griffiths isn’t sure if the Top Forty Over 40 nomination is a nod to her work, citation for the commission or a combination of both.

“Whatever the case is, I’m personally humbled by the nomination and proud professional for the commission.”

Basically, the function of the commission is to support the growth of the regional economy, be that by helping businesses already here expand and attract talent to luring companies to Central Okanagan and attracting investment.

As a way to interact with companies and find out what they need to grow, Griffiths came up with a program called Business Walks that see economic development types and local politicians visit businesses for input.

Business Walks has now also been adopted by the B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training as a best practice and is also now been instituted in more than 75 other communities across Canada.

“There are 17,000 businesses in the Central Okanagan, most of them small,” said Griffiths.

“The area is also very entrepreneurial and a magnet for entrepreneurs who want our lifestyle. It’s what helps define our social fabric. People are here because they want to be here. The population and the business base is very diverse.”

The tech industry, with its glamourous sectors of software, video games, apps, animation and film, is the new economic darling.

However, Griffiths sees traditional industries such as agriculture, construction-real estate, manufacturing, wholesale-retail-trade and forestry as strong and likely to expand, often with the aid of technology.

Especially with her promotion to director, Griffiths has found work-life balance to be razor thin. “It’s been very, very difficult,” she admitted. “I have both work-associated guilt and mom-associated guilt. I guess that means I’m doing a good job in both areas of my life. I also have great support in my husband (who has his own construction company, Griffco Homes, and is still in the beverage business as a sales representative for Campari Canada) and we have a wonderful nanny.”

Griffiths is also on the Economic Development Association of Canada board and served two terms on the B.C. Economic Development Association board.

She’s also chaired the Okanagan Valley Economic Development Society.