If you attended the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City last year you might have been one of the lucky ones who got a taste of a classic Bend beer in a classic Bend cup. In a show of just how tight Bend outdoor retailers really are, Ruffwear, Deschutes Brewery and Silipint got together to serve 200 of the trade show’s attendees Deschutes beer in a Silipint. The only catch? Give us your contact information so we can tell you more about what it means to do business in Bend.
It was part of the ongoing effort by Economic Development Central Oregon to lead an organized effort to recruit more outdoor industry businesses to town. And it’s just one of the ways this business support group, and outdoor retailers already here, are making an impact. EDCO and the Bend Economic Development Advisory Board have also created a series called the Outdoor Roundtable, which gets outdoor industry leaders together to collaborate around what the industry needs in Bend and how to recruit more players to the team. “Bend has all the raw ingredients to get on the map,” said Van Schoessler, a sales manager for Seattle-based Stanley Outdoor, who moved to Bend three years ago and helped formed the Roundtable. “And we have the community interest and collaborative spirit to make it happen.” Scott Allan, President and CEO of Hydroflask, has been involved with the Roundtable project for two years and sees an upside for all involved. “It benefits all of us to see the local outdoor industry grow,” said Allan. “A bigger market helps give people confidence to take the leap and move their families to Bend, knowing they’ll have more options.”
One of the early spin-offs from the Roundtable is Bend Outdoor Works, an incubator project aimed at nurturing and accelerating industry growth by pooling existing resources and making them available to start-ups. “A lot of the time, established companies are going to have excess materials or idle time on their equipment. Whether there’s a need for fabric cutting, prototyping, testing, and so forth, local companies are working to make resources available for start-ups,” said Allan. The Roundtable is also working with OSU-Cascades in an effort to develop curriculum to strengthen the local workforce. “There is already quite a bit of industry talent here—more than you might think,” said Allan. “But it’s in our best interest to keep growing it. So we’re working with OSU to develop courses in product design, product testing, marketing, etc. If a business is coming here to start, just knowing that the industry that’s here now is working together with such collaboration and enthusiasm is likely to be comforting.”
Despite their enthusiasm for developing future resources through the Roundtable, Schoessler, Allan, and others are quick to point out that there’s plenty of reason to move here already. “Bend is a great place to operate an outdoor company,” said Allan. “There are a number of companies here already and a ton of talent that can provide help in getting new companies off the ground. It’s in our own interest to help out, but we’re genuinely passionate about helping others get started.”