The Bulletin today reported on what local techies think needs to be done to grow Bend’s tech economy. On the to-do list: Creating a UX design academy, cultivating more mid-sized tech companies, and finding ways to attract more software developers and grow our own.
From the story:
Bend has been dubbed an entrepreneurial hot spot, as well as a growing tech cluster. It’s received national attention for its ecosystem that includes a startup accelerator called FoundersPad and the largest angel conference in the Pacific Northwest, the Bend Venture Conference. Yet (Meg) McDonald, a user-experience designer, had never heard of Bend until several months ago.
“It had never crossed my radar,” she said. “Before Bend, I was thinking I would relocate to Las Vegas, maybe New Mexico or Colorado.”
Dino Vendetti, co-founder of FoundersPad and general partner of Seven Peaks Ventures, and Bruce Cleveland, general partner at Silicon Valley-based InterWest Partners, think a design academy for user experience — the way a customer interacts with a product — could put Bend on the map. They believe it could cultivate talent locally, make Bend a destination for technology professionals and help existing tech companies grow.
Other technology experts think having a more diverse employment landscape, one with midtier companies that have one to 10 high-tech jobs as a supporting element, could give tech professionals more employment options and reduce the risk factor of moving to a small town. However, most agree the tight local rental market is a major obstacle for importing talent and new tech businesses.
So just how hard is it to find a rental? I’ve seen numerous sources report vacancy rates at less than 1% this year. Realtors say two things are driving those rates down: Rising home prices have more people putting their rental homes up for sale, and more people are moving here.
This blogger reports that for many renters finding a rental becomes a full-time job (the fun kind where you don’t get a paycheck), that many people rent homes without seeing them in person and that there’s now a Facebook support group called Bend Housing and Rental Relief.
The story raises some interesting ideas for giving the tech cluster here more momentum. But the rental issue is a conundrum. Should we create a commune of tricked-out Airstreams just for software developers? (You could call it the Nerd Herd. Someone get on this).
But seriously: Has the lack of rentals prevented any new hires? Are employers here doing anything to help potential hires find housing? Let us know in the comments.