Bend’s tech companies have pooled their resources to be one of two primary sponsors of the upcoming Bend Livability Project — a four-day event scheduled for this weekend (June 2 through June 5) that is equal parts town hall meeting, community party and one giant brainstorm.
This impressive project is organized by Bend 2030. And the recently dubbed Bend Tech Ecosystem, aka most of the tech companies here, raised $20,000 in a hot minute to support it. Why a Bend Livability Project? Why does the tech ecosystem care? What is Bend 2030? So many questions, and fortunately we have some answers (they’re all 42).
So just sit back and drink your coffee while I tell you a (quick) story. First, Bend2030 is a group of civic-minded leaders advocating for “the best Bend” now and in the future. This group spearheaded the livability project as a “large scale conference and ongoing civic engagement initiative” aimed at tackling how to help Bend retain its awesomeness in the face of rapid growth.
From the Bend Livability Project:
The Project’s four days of incredible events help us answer the question on all our minds: How will we protect the livability of our community in the face of such dramatic growth and change?
The answer is simpler than you think. We CAN shape the future of Bend by educating, empowering and engaging each other through the Bend Livability Project. Our ticket sales and attendance predictions point to more than 4,000 people participating in the Project weekend through films, parties, public art projects, lectures, panels, workshops, walking tours, meetings and more.
The project entails many events, the conference is one. It kicks off on Thursday night with BendFilm providing a viewing of the film, “The Human Scale” at the Tower Theater, followed by a panel discussion about how it translates to Bend.
There’s a Future Fair on Friday, June 3 as part of Art Walk, hosted between downtown and the Makers District. You can see what Bend could look like in the future through futuristic, superimposed images of our city, and visit several interactive art stations.
The conference is Saturday and features panels and speakers on issues such as affordable housing, neighborhood livability and transportation. A day of volunteer action Sunday punctuates the jam-packed weekend.
That’s a lot of livability. But what’s tech got to do with it?
A lot. First, do you like living here? Second, did you move here recently? Preston Callicott, CEO of Five Talent and a Bend 2030 board member, sees a logical connection between the tech community and the city’s growth, the desire for Bend to stay “livable” and the need for innovative ideas to help that happen.
Truth be told: Many of us tech peeps are transplants. We’re in good company, with thousands of others who are moving here. And Preston believes we have a vested interest in helping Bend retain much of what drew us here (Mountains! Small town living! No traffic! Lots of beer!) and ensure it remains accessible to everyone. “We’re at a pivotal moment in Bend’s history, and we have the chance to set things right now,” Callicott says.
In addition, Callicott thinks that the tech community — innovative by nature, obsessively entrepreneurial, compulsive doers — might contribute some good ideas to the issues at hand. (Related: Talk to Tierney O’Dea about gondolas. Just do it).
“We needed to rally the tech companies and give them the opportunity to get involved and have an impact,” he says. So Callicott sent an email on a recent Monday afternoon to the CEOs and founders of four dozen tech companies and startups, asking them to pitch in to help sponsor the livability conference as a group.
Within hours, nearly 30 had responded. The supporters included smaller startups, our biggest tech employers, the BendTECH coworking space, newcomers to town such as Kollective and (full disclosure) this blog. The size of donations varied and the effort ultimately yielded $20,000 and a spot for the Bend Tech Ecosystem as a primary supporter. Hayden Homes is also sponsoring the conference.
The tech ecosystem group has been running ads touting its support of the livability conference and, Callicott hopes, raising the visibility of the tech companies here. He notes that while we’re certainly part of the growth, we can also participate in the future planning — and ensure this place we love stays livable.
“We live in a world of possibilities, not problems,” he says. “So attend the conference. Raise your hand and voice your thoughts.”
You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].