After 12 months of planning,the City of Bend is launching a multi-faceted economic development program designed to promote sustained job growth in Bend. The program will streamline the business development process within the City to help local companies grow and market the City as business-friendly to attract new companies and jobs.
The program will be overseen by the Bend Economic Development Advisory Board (BEDAB), a volunteer group of local business leaders who have been advising the City on innovative and proactive ways to bring jobs to our community. BEDAB was formed in 2009 and will become an official City Council appointed advisory board on
July 1. Assisting BEDAB with the coordination and execution of these and other economic development projects is Jon Skidmore, the City of Bend Business Advocate.
The BEDAB consists of the following people currently: Chair – Bill Moseley, GL Solutions, Dave Slavensky – Structus, Bill Kuhn – South Valley Bank, Pat Kesgard – Steve Scott Realtors, Susie Stevens, Opportunity Knocks, Carolyn Bonner-Eagan – Oregon Employment Division, Mel Oberst – City of Bend, Director of Community Development Division, Doug LaPlaca – Visit Bend, David Ditz – Juniper Ridge
Beth Wickham – COCC, Tim Casey – Chamber of Commerce and Eric Strobel – EDCO.
The Bend City Council recently adopted a resolution that formally created the BEDAB as a standing committee to advise the council on matters relating to economic development. The nine-person board will be officially appointed by the City Council and applications are currently being accepted through May 27.
BEDAB members will provide input into City policies and procedures from a private sector perspective, facilitate entrepreneurial support and connect businesses to community services, brand and market Bend as “open for business,” and organize and oversee City programs and efforts applied to economic development.
BEDAB has begun work on four priority economic development and job creation projects. The board currently manages the Bend Opportunity Fund, a grant program for local small businesses based on newly created jobs. Approximately $68,000 worth of Opportunity Fund forgivable loans have been approved by City Council with another $26,000+/- in process. These funds have been awarded to Manzama, Agere, Nashelle, Play Outdoors and Tensility. Loans range from $6,000 – 18,000. According to EDCO there will be approximately 42 jobs that are created by the business expansions that result from these loans (in part at least). EDCO conservatively estimates that the economic output from these $68,000+/- in loans will be roughly $4.6 million (based on direct and indirect multipliers).
A forgivable loan in the amount of $16,000 under the program was recently provided to Tensility International Corporation. Tensility moved to Bend in late 2010 from Valencia, California. The company designs and distributes cable assemblies for OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and entrepreneurial companies. The customer base covers diverse industries such as LED lighting, solar technology, manufacturing, consumer electronics, and automotive. Tensility plans to invest $9,000 in data management software, $2,500 in web development, $2,500 in a high-quality camera that will allow it to provide pictures of its miniature products, $12,000 in new computers, and $12,000 in building improvements, for a total investment of $38,000. Some of these investments, such as the new computers, are necessary to add employees, and the others will support the new employees and allow the company to increase its sales. Proposed job creation by end of the fourth quarter of 2012 is eight new employees.
“At this time, Eric Strobel and I are working on how the Opportunity Fund will be managed – based on the sensitive nature of some of the company financial records it may be appropriate for EDCO to continue taking the lead on these with the Bend Business Advocate coordinating as necessary,” noted Skidmore.
Working with Visit Bend, BEDAB will continue to execute and expand the marketing campaign for in-migration of new businesses, residents and jobs. BEDAB also coordinates the Tenant Relocation Program which offers reduced City planning and building fees to local companies who are growing and adding new jobs. The fourth priority project is identifying and removing roadblocks to business development in the City, making if more efficient for companies to grow. Efforts are underway to streamline the City’s development code, update its design standards and specifications and modernize its municipal code.
Skidmore, who will serve as a liaison between existing and new businesses and City administration, providing advocacy and facilitation services, comes to the City with several years of private sector business and project development experience.
Skidmore is currently formalizing a work plan to implement a number of initiatives identified in the BEDAB Strategic Plan. “One initial task is to map out the numerous entrepreneurial support organizations (ESOs) in the region and identify which organizations provide which types of support, identify when it is appropriate for business owners to contact specific ESOs based on the company needs and provide easy access to such information through the City website,” reports Skidmore.
“I am working on organizing our business license database so that we can create a small business services directory that will be accessible from the City website – this will provide access to local businesses in an effort to keep things local. I am also meeting with a lot of business owners and community members to listen to their thoughts on the City services that impact business. The idea is to identify procedures and policies that can be improved.”
In conjunction with EDCO Skidmore is also reaching out to businesses looking to relocate or expand to assist with coordination with the City and other entities that are involved in such projects. “My goal is to be a welcome mat of sorts for both existing businesses in the community and those considering a move here,” added Skidmore. “I appreciate the contributions that the business community makes to this City and want to show that City Hall also shares that appreciation.”
Funding for Bend’s economic development program comes from existing City business license fees and one-time funds the City received as a result of franchise fee and transient room tax audits.