Where Next for Central Oregon’s Diversifying Economy?
How to maintain impressive economic gains into the future while maintaining the quality of life for which we are rightly revered, is one question pondered in this edition of CBN’s annual economic outlook for Central Oregon, drawing opinions and input from a wide spectrum of business and community leaders.
The Bend-Redmond area has led the Central Oregon region in a remarkable rebound from the depths of the Great Recession to a position where the economy has been ranked as one of the best performing in the nation over recent years, with impressive broad-based gains in jobs and wages.
Lessons have been learned from the last downturn, when an over-reliance on construction and real estate development led to a precipitous decline, and great strides have been made to diversify the economy to better insulate against inevitable future down cycles.
The region’s enviable quality of life and easy access to outdoor recreation continues to draw in tourists and new residents alike, particularly those with an entrepreneurial talent who find a collaborative business community supportive of nurturing start-up enterprises — particularly through the invaluable engine of Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) — and housing prices have climbed back above pre-recession levels.
Despite what your opinion may be about its location, the ever-evolving Oregon State University-Cascades campus continues to play an important role in helping create a skilled workforce valuable to growing industries.
High-tech industries continue to be an important economic driver as rising wages and costs of doing business in cities like San Francisco and Seattle sees firms choose to relocate or expand away from those regions.
New challenges have arisen along with the rise in activity, including relative labor scarcity and how to manage growth while making continued quality investments in infrastructure and education to provide an environment for continued prosperity.
Looking at upgrading employees’ potential skills as well as finding ways to keep attracting and cultivating younger workers in the context of an aging workforce is an important part of that conversation.
Continued increases in housing prices and low rental vacancy rates have been witnessed as population growth continues, spurring efforts to incentivize more creative and denser developments for a wider array of housing options.
What does this all add up to? Diversity, in my opinion, is the key to sustainable growth in Central Oregon.
I’d like to thank the many contributors for taking the time to share their information and opinions about Central Oregon’s economic future.