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.
You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].