City Club of C.O. discusses economy's future

Focus on diversification, to buffer boom-bust cycle

POSTED: 7:03 PM PST January 16, 2014    UPDATED: 7:03 PM PST January 16, 2014 
City Club talks about Economic Future

There's no doubt about it: The Bend area is getting bigger. The City Club of Central Oregon met Thursday to talk about how the area can not only grow, but grow intelligently.

It's a large issue to tackle, and business leaders only scratched the surface Thursday. The biggest issue, however, was how to diversify Bend's economy so that if any one industry crashes, the community doesn't go down with it.

The recession hit Bend hard in its prime fields: construction, housing and tourism. The year 2014, however, looks much different than 2007. Bend is back to pre-recession growth numbers.
   
"All of that firm growth has been in agencies other than construction," said Carolyn Eagan a business advocate for the city of Bend . 

That's good, she said, because the main goal to growing Bend smarter than before is to diversify.

"Have more slices to the pie that aren't going to be in the same business cycle," said Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon.

In order to do that, there are issues to overcome first.
    
"So one of the barriers we see is geographic isolation," Eagan said.

However, she said, that can also be an asset -- some people move here because it is more isolated. But it does make it more difficult to travel here, and go to larger cities near and far.

"Another barrier might be that we just don't have a critical mass of people or business," Eagan said.

A housing squeeze also is emerging, especially for what many would call affordable. Those moving to Bend could have a hard time renting or buying homes.
    
"How do you fix Juniper Ridge?" Darren Powederly of Compass Commercial said, referring to the city-owned, still largely vacant mixed-use development. "The name is like a curse word,  but it's a huge asset, and we need to make that work."

One thing that Bend does have isn't something you can buy.
  
"I think the strongest is that it's a place people want to live," Eagan said.

Often, people move here for the lifestyle and end up creating their job when they get here. That has lead to Bend's high density of entrepreneurs.

"That is a unique attribute that we have," Lee said.

The population is expected to grow by by about 30,000 people by 2025. As Bend grows, the City Club speakers want to ensure economic stability by growing various  industries as well.
  
"If you have one stick, you can break it over your knee," Lee said. "But if you have five or 10 or 15 in the same diameter, it's almost impossible to break."

An unbreakable economy being the goal.