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Central Oregon Economic Forecast . . . a muddy future?

Central Oregon Economic Forecast

by John and Sandy Kohlmoos on February 2, 2011

The third annual Central Oregon Economic Forecast meeting, held in Bend last week, offered more doomsday presentations focusing largely on the reasons for our economic decline.  Reporting in detail on them would yield another very boring post.

“We are going to have to work together”

On a slightly more positive note, Delore Zimmerman, a principal with the Praxis Strategy Group, offered a view that “is all about the future.”

Delore Zimmerman of Praxis

Zimmerman spent seven months researching Central Oregon before proposing a course of action comprised of 10 specific strategies. I think I need a nap.

The 10 strategies (with comments from Ed Merriman of The Bulletin) are:

1. Build on the know-how of the existing construction work force to create a manufactured homes industry.

The market for manufactured homes is growing in the United States and worldwide, and that for every 100 employees working in a manufactured housing plant, 98 other jobs would be created in other industries.

Nothing like a picture of a handsome pooch to liven up a dull post!

2. Assist more startup companies.

With Economic Development for Central Oregon, the Bend Venture Conference and angel investors willing to invest in startup companies, Central Oregon already has “a robust economic development network.” But he suggested expanding the region’s capabilities to assist startup companies and fostering more cooperation among various groups, and government, education and business leaders, through local collaboration.


3. Create partnerships with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Working with the tribes provides many advantages, including greater potential for federal government grants and low-interest business loans, access to water and other natural resources, and regulatory and work force advantages.

4. Build innovation and infrastructure, including development of an applied research and creative activities center in Central Oregon.

Zimmerman suggested going beyond the technical research center that has already been proposed by City Councilor Jim Clinton, calling for a creative-activities component to train a skilled work force to develop a film and television industry. That component would build on the skills and experience of people who worked in film, television and visual arts and have moved to Bend from California and other places.


5. Create global connections.

“You are really good at helping startup companies. Helping them export would transform your economy. It would lead to more businesses overall,” Zimmerman said. He recommended starting an export-assistance program or business that provides that type of assistance.

6. Create an innovation fund.

Zimmerman said a locally funded innovation fund could help people get the skills and training needed to develop businesses in fields where job opportunities are expected to grow, including health and nutrition, tourism, food and beverage, extreme sports, film and virtual arts, culinary arts, recreation and outdoor activities.

7. Create a sustainable energy and clean technology system.

Develop long-range energy and clean-tech systems for water, air, waste and power. Zimmerman said creating systems to conserve the region’s vast resources, and to manufacture and market technology and equipment that can help other communities and businesses conserve resources around the world will create jobs of the future.

8. Create a leadership roundtable.

Central Oregon has many organizations, agencies and community and business leaders working on myriad ideas, but creating a leadership roundtable will improve communication between the various entities, which Zimmerman said will reduce duplication of efforts and get the groups working more closely together.

9. Foster a more business-friendly county, by eliminating onerous “DURT.”

That acronym is short for delays, uncertainty, regulations and taxes.

“If regulations are too stiff and taxes are too high, businesses are going to keep going to Texas,” Zimmerman said.

10. Reconvene the Deschutes Economic Alliance Action Summit in 100 days.

Form action teams to sharpen each strategy and create an action plan. Report back in 100 days on what the region has to build on and what is has in terms of capital and other resources to put the plan into action, Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman was hired by the Deschutes Economic Alliance and started work in May to develop the plan.

Let’s all head to Mt. Bachelor!

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