Bend's Economy Is Flying High

By Michaela Jackson on June 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Adkins

Bend is not a sleepy town. Since 2001, the community’s population has grown more than 17 percent, creating nearly 11,000 new jobs.

The aggregate of successful industries produce many of the area’s specialties, such as locally brewed beer, unrivaled recreation opportunities and expansive profitable forests. Add to that list: airplanes.

The scenic town is a center of Oregon’s burgeoning aerospace sector, which provides high-wage jobs and plays a significant role in the local economy. Experts pin the industry’s economic impact for the state at $1.6 billion and nearly 3,000 direct jobs – and that doesn’t even include the impact created by parts makers and service companies.

Early on, as the industry picked up steam across the state, an engineer who had worked for an aircraft manufacturer in a neighboring town founded Windward Performance in Bend, and a stream of parts and service suppliers began to trickle in. More recently, aircraft giant Cessna threw its hat into Bend’s ring, purchasing the local mainstay Columbia Aircraft for $26.4 million.

The real clincher for Bend was Epic Aircraft, which opened its doors in 2003 and was turning a profit almost before the ink dried on the business plan. The start-up took $63 million in orders during two aircraft shows in 2007, and the company had a backlog extending two years beyond their 2008 production schedule.

Aerospace is big business in Bend, but it is just one of the driving forces behind an economy that’s healthy across the board. Bend, coupled with the neighboring city of Redmond, was among the top five designated market areas for growth between 1998 and 2005, and Deschutes County boasts the second highest per capita retail sales spending in Oregon.

In addition to the airplane industry, growing sectors such as research and development, software, medical devices and recreational equipment manufacturing contribute to Bend’s vibrant and diverse economy.

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