He sounds more polished, a little more politician, but he hasn’t lost any of his rookie optimism about B.C.’s economic future.
At the close of 2013, Kyllo had been on the job as Shuswap MLA for roughly six months and was still finding his way around government. He had appointments to a number of committees, mostly dealing with the economy and the Liberal BC Jobs Plan, and was learning to juggle the needs of the constituency with the government machinery in Victoria and Vancouver.
“Last year was a whirlwind, it was getting my legs under myself. Now I’ve been able to work and develop relationships with my MLA colleagues, with people in the ministries and that’s been so valuable. And I’m enjoying the opportunity to represent my constituents.”
Now 19-months in, Kyllo has grown into his role. His talking points are in place. He’s more at ease with the spotlight and the media questions. He’s adjusted, although somewhat reluctantly, to the amount of travel that the job entails, citing that as the most difficult part of the job. He’s attending family functions by Skype instead of in person, as often the obligations of the job keep him at the coast.
“The travel and being away from home. That’s the biggest challenge for me, but then I look at the education I’m getting. You can’t learn what I’m learning in any school, and it’s really such a privilege.”
With his background in business with Twin Anchors Houseboats and TA Structures, Kyllo remains firmly planted in work on the B.C. economy.
“I’m pleased to report that unemployment has declined significantly in the province and there’s $86 billion in projects under construction in B.C. Not to mention there’s another $236 billion in projects under consideration. Those are all good signs of a return to a robust economy.”
When asked what benefits have been brought to the Shuswap, Kyllo is quick to point to the spinoff effects of resource development, particularly in the northern part of the province.
“When it comes to resource work, the jobs are really distributed throughout the province. For a mining project, they still need lawyers, accountants, engineers, environmental assessments – work does occur in other regions.”
He points to TA structures which is manufacturing portable structures for resource projects, largely in the north, and his recent tours of manufacturing operations in Salmon Arm’s industrial park, where a number of metal fabrication operations are doing a lot of business by supplying projects in the province’s natural-resource sector.
Kyllo also notes the Shuswap is experiencing a resurgence in tourism and its associated economic benefits to the region.
A particular project of note for Kyllo this year was taking a tour of 60 manufacturing businesses in B.C. to find out what the government is doing well, where it can improve and where there might be opportunities to work together.
A common concern he heard was the need for skilled workers in the province, something which he says is being addressed with the Skills for Jobs Blueprint, which is looking at assistance for developing apprenticeship programs and helping to fund educational opportunities in areas which have been identified as offering significant job opportunities.
“We are well underway, but I think the biggest challenge is that we have many great programs but often the businesses are not aware of them. We need to do a better job of communicating with the business community.”
Most satisfying for Kyllo has been the opportunity to work with people in the Shuswap to find solutions to issues. He points to the mudslides at Cooke Creek and McIntyre Creek, where residents had to be evacuated for nearly seven weeks. The flooding also destroyed much of the Kingfisher Interpretive Centre and Kyllo worked with that group to try and get things re-established.
Kyllo, who started out in politics with a seat on Sicamous municipal council, now has his brother Todd taking on that role in his home community. But Kyllo said Todd is not they type to be following in his brother’s footsteps.
“If I had to give him advice it would be that running a business is definitely different than running a municipal government. There are different processes and different challenges. Government is a different animal, it’s not all about the bottom line, there are other interests to be served.”