Business and recreation marry to create a work-life balance that is forever baked into the culture.
A real work-life-play balance is something that drives the outdoor industry and the entrepreneurs who run it. But if you’re trying to grow that business in a major city, the things that drew you to the industry in the first place often take a back seat to hours spent commuting and the high costs of doing business.
Not in Bend. An outdoor recreation mecca nestled at the foot of the Cascade Range in sunny Central Oregon, Bend is more than just a world-renowned outdoor playground. Here, an innovative and collaborative industry thrives, while the only thing standing between you and the outdoors is your office door.
The success of Bend’s outdoor industry is no accident. Established local companies have collaborated with their younger brethren to fuel an entrepreneurial environment with tremendous growth potential, doing it in never-before-seen ways. Oregon State University-Cascades – the region’s four-year university with a brand-new campus – is in the process of creating the nation’s first outdoor products program. Established Bend companies (think Hydro Flask and Ruffwear) have helped spur the program’s creation, ensuring that Central Oregon will be able to develop its own outdoor industry talent for generations to come. Bend is even home to the first outdoor-industry incubator in the U.S., Bend Outdoor Worx.
“Who says you can’t combine work and play? Certainly none of the hundreds of employees of the outdoor companies that decided to call Bend home,” says Chris van Dyke, former executive at Patagonia and Nike, partner at Songlines Communications, and consultant for Oregon State University-Cascades’ outdoor products degree program. “With the soon-to-be-launched four-year degree program in outdoor product creation and management at OSU-Cascades, Bend will offer the perfect outdoor lifestyle trifecta: unequaled outdoor landscapes for play, a supportive and entrepreneurial business environment, and an educational program for learning and recruiting.”
Bend has been able to attract outdoor industry innovators and their businesses in large part because the pursuit of a high quality of life and a strong passion for the outdoors are the same reasons the city continues to grow.
Here, business and recreation marry to create a work-life balance that is forever baked into the culture. A few early morning runs at Mount Bachelor, a quick lunchtime mountain bike ride down a tacky singletrack, or a midday group ride, are easily and frequently accomplished during the course of a workday.
This unique lifestyle has proven to help outdoor companies recruit and retain top talent.
“Businesses and individuals alike often cite Bend’s work-life balance as a crucial reason why they want to relocate to the area,” says Roger Lee, CEO of Economic Development for Central Oregon. “That balance helps Bend and the region as a whole differentiate itself from big cities, where such a live-work-play mix isn’t possible.”
Bend’s success has not been contained to just the outdoor industry. The Milken Institute recently named Bend the “#1 Best-Performing Small City for 2016,” announcing what Central Oregonians already knew – their region is the best in the country.
Despite its moderate size, Central Oregon has made significant investments in its infrastructure. The region’s technology infrastructure is advanced enough to support Facebook and Apple data centers. A regional hub, Bend stands out from similar cities its size in terms of transportation infrastructure. Redmond Municipal Airport offers daily nonstop service to every Western hub, putting most major destinations in the U.S. and Asia within one stop (or less) from Bend. Additionally, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle are all relatively short drives away.
Bend is also booming with great restaurants, craft breweries, and increasingly urban entertainment.
“The growth of Bend from an outdoor playground into a magnet for the outdoor industry has been remarkable,” says Kevney Dugan, president/CEO of Visit Bend, the city’s destination marketing organization. “The region’s outdoor amenities – Mount Bachelor, mountain bike trails, world-class golf courses, sheer rock faces, and the Deschutes River, to name a few – work as an outdoor laboratory that inspires innovation for the industry.”
There’s a saying that “The hardest part of visiting Bend is leaving Bend.” The most fortunate ones, though, are those in Bend who are already home.
Stop dreaming about relocating your business to Bend and start planning it by visiting www.edcoinfo.com/outdoor.