Business experts from the recent Bend Chamber Economic Forecast Breakfast echoed a similar theme: there’s no recession in sight. Even the pending national election didn’t seem to faze the speakers about Central Oregon’s burgeoning economy. However, one pending vote on Ballot Measure 97 could have a damaging impact on Oregon’s economy if voters decide to approve the largest proposed tax increase in Oregon’s history – which had the potential to derail progress and “erode two decades of job growth.”
Meanwhile, the Bend-Redmond metropolitan area has “roared back” in leading the state in key metrics including job growth. The Deschutes County unemployment rate declined for the first time since February, dropping to 5.1 percent in September from 5.4 percent in August. The rate is down from last year when it was 5.8 percent.
Further indications show that the Bend-Redmond Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) posted the highest Gross Domestic Product in Oregon and the 7th fastest of all 381 MSA’s nationwide.
The Milken Institute named Bend-Redmond the 8th Best Performing Small Metro in the U.S. for 2015, with ranking criteria including job growth, economic diversity and educational opportunities.
Forbes magazine just rated the Bend metro area #1 in Best Small Places for Business and Careers following the area’s resurgence including posting the top job growth rate in the country last year at 6.6 percent. It reported that the five-year annual rate of 3.8 percent ranks among the highest in the U.S. and local companies enjoy business costs that are 22 percent below the national average, while its high share of educated millennials ranked among the top ten percent of smaller metros.
On the national level, Mark Kralj, portfolio manager with Ferguson Wellman Capital Management, said at the Forecast Breakfast the economy was “muddling along” in typical recovery fashion, while economic growth was “anemic” across the globe. But on the local front, he said wage and job growth was continuing at a healthy pace, stating that he was amazed at the job numbers being reported in Deschutes County. He predicts it is a very powerful force that will continue for awhile.
Although there has been a lot of talk of a pending recession Tim Duy, senior director of the Oregon Economic Forum, doesn’t think it will happen. Duy said that the local region, and Oregon as a whole, was performing better than the national average, propelled in part by job growth in industry clusters focused on manufacturing and technology.
The dark side of the economic forecast remains Measure 97, which you may have already voted on • hopefully against! It has the potential to change the economy in Oregon and Central Oregon and the impact on job growth with the regressive tax could erase all the positives noted in the forecast.