Alright. That may be an overstatement, but this group has plans. Representatives of Bend’s new and traditional economies met Thursday to discuss their individual and mutual challenges, and talk about solutions.
The group of nearly 60 people included startup founders, tech CEOs and outdoor gear companies (aka the newbies) as well as bankers, real estate developers, hospital and medical clinic executives, beer brewers, attorneys and government officials (the “trads”).
The event was the second in a series, sponsored by Looking Forward, aimed at growing and supporting Bend’s economy. People met. Connections were made. Ideas were hatched. Beer (and Humm Kombucha) was consumed.
“We suspect that both the traditional and new economies don’t know much about each other,” Jim Petersen, founder of law firm Karnopp Petersen and Looking Forward team member, told the crowd. “We’ll attempt to bridge that divide tonight.”
The bottom line: Whether you’re an executive at Les Schwab or Bend Memorial Clinic or a recent business school grad running a startup out of your garage (go Cairn go!), you share a lot of the same challenges — and have a lot of the same hopes for this community.
The issues encountered and discussed by both sides included:
- The challenge of recruiting talent to the area
- Retaining employees, especially younger ones who tend to change careers more often
- Finding affordable housing
- And access to capital
The audience broke into small groups, and if they had time, started throwing out solutions: Programs at OSU-Cascades to increase the talent pool. Mentor programs to help coach younger business owners. An online directory of local “experts” startups could tap for advice. And, of course, more events to bring the old and new business communities together, preferably with free beer and hosted at beautiful ranches (Thank you, Tim McGinnis).
The meeting ended with Roger Lee, executive director of EDCO, Neil Bryant, former Oregon state senator, and Eric King, Bend city manager, talking about their visions of Bend for 10 years from now.
Heads up: It looks good. There are lots of vibrant, mixed-use neighborhoods, more affordable housing, and we’re considered one of the top 10 cities for entrepreneurs to start a business.
So stay tuned. As the famous saying goes no dreams come true until you wake up and go to work. Much thanks to the attendees of Thursday’s event, who are rolling up their sleeves and doing just that.