From beer to software design, from golfing to world-class cycling, the City of Bend has it all. If you ask a dozen people who live in Bend, why they live in Bend, the conversation will not go on for too long before you hear the word “lifestyle.”
So how does a City protect its lifestyle while intentionally working to diversify its economy? It’s not easy, but the Bend Economic Development Advisory Board (BEDAB) was created to do just that. For the four years that the board has been in existence, the focus of the City’s economic development vision has shifted from boom and bust to growing local industries and enhancing our lifestyle.
The 2007 recession hit the City of Bend like a ton of bricks. In two short years, total employment in the region plummeted. Unemployment rose. Bend gained nation recognition as the metropolitan area with the largest annual increase in its unemployment rate in the fall of 2009. All sectors were affected. Everyone in town knew someone who had lost a job and had lost a house.
It was during that time that the City of Bend, with support from the regional economic development agency, Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO), took control of its economic destiny. After two years of input and debate, two major things occurred in spring 2011. The City hired a Business Advocate and the City officially recognized its Economic Development Advisory Board. Today, the two work hand in hand to implement strategies to make certain that the City of Bend is cultivating tomorrow’s economy.
Bend Economic Development Advisory Board
The BEDAB is a nine-member advisory board. Members are chosen from Bend’s most prominent industries. Industry representatives sit alongside education and economic development agency employees to advise the Bend City Council on economic development programs and policies that will, over time, diversify Bend’s economic base and provide careers for Bend residents. The group meets monthly and has several subcommittees. BEDAB’s strategic planning focuses on creating an environment in Bend where businesses thrive.
Bend Business Advocate
Where the BEDAB was convened to set the direction for Bend’s economic development vision, the Bend Business Advocate was hired to drive the bus. The BBA works with all city departments to make sure that everything the city does considers its impact on business. Every issue summary submitted to the City Council on every topic, from long range plans to noise ordinances, takes into account the impact that the Council decision will have on local businesses.
Through innovation and partnership the City of Bend will create an environment where businesses thrive. Since the inception of the BEDAB and the BBA position, the door of City Hall have been open to business input and solution-oriented decision making. Keep your eye out over the next year to witness “business-friendly” back in local government.