Bend sees more signs of growing economy in 2018

New city business licenses up 9 percent in January

Bends economy on the rise

BEND, Ore. - Last year brought a big increase in the number of new Bend business licenses, and now 2018 is starting off even stronger, according to a law firm that tracks those statistics.

According to EagerLaw, there was a 9 percent increase in newly registered Bend businesses, compared to last January.

Jeff Eager said Monday he thought the numbers last year were strong, but was surprised when he saw the new numbers for January.

He said there are many factors that could have played a role in the rise, but something as simple as  a more mild winter on the High Desert could have lead to this increase.

"In January of 2017, instead of starting new businesses, people were shoveling snow off of their roofs," Eager said. "So I think that probably plays into it a little bit. But I thought the January 2017 numbers were really strong, So I guess I'm pleasantly surprised that the 2018 numbers are even stronger."

Eager added that he's hopeful the trend can continue, but knows it will probably level out at some point.

And there are other ways to tell Central Oregon is seeing economic growth.

State regional economist Damon Runberg said th business license numbers are a good way to see how new entrepreneurial businesses are doing. But he likes to gauge economic success by looking at how many new jobs employers are able to fill.

He is quick to say, though, that this upward trend won't last forever.

"Things are going to slow down. And they are going to slow down to a level that is normal for most economies," Runberg said. "We're just so used to extremes, extreme highs and extreme lows, that when we are not growing at 8 percent a year, we think that something is wrong. I think that we are going to move into a 2 to 3 percent job growth threshold for 2018."

Runberg added that in the past year in Deschutes County, there was a 3.8 percent increase in jobs, making the Bend area the 14th-fastest growing metro area economy out of the 388 metro areas across the country.

Katy Brooks, CEO of the Bend Chamber of Commerce, said there is a support system of sorts in place to help businesses succeed in Bend, through collaboration.

Brooks added that in order to keep the economy strong, businesses will have to work toward diversifying the work-force, backing higher education in the region and providing housing options.

"The great news is, a lot of people are moving here, and businesses are thriving," Brooks said. "And that will eventually drive up salaries and everything that goes along with it."

She added that it's important for all of the different types of industries that support different salary levels to provide options in the job field, which will lead to a balanced economy.

A business advocate with the city of Bend said they are seeing diversity in the economy, with growth in tech, outdoor products, brewing, and bioscience industries.

Katy Brooks said it's important that the business sector be a part of the discussions on the future of Bend and how it will be shaped in order to see this strong economy continue.

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