Home Back Issues July 2011 Bend's economy is coming back to life

Bend's economy is coming back to life

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Articles - July 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Article Index
Bend's economy is coming back to life
Page 2
Page 3: The spirit of invention
Page 4
Page 5: Innovations
Page 6
Page 7: The new austerity
Page 8: A way forward

By Ben Jacklet

Shelly Hummel has been selling homes in Bend for more than 20 years, and she’s got the attitude to match: upbeat, confident, a dog-lover who took up skiing at age 4. She labors to keep things positive, but every so often her frustration slips free: “The banks just kept giving the builders money, without even looking at plans or doing drive-bys of the places they were selling. The market just exploded with new construction. Boom! Selling stuff off of floor plans. Unfortunately, selling them to people who had no business buying them. It was a perfect storm of stupidity.”

We are touring the wreckage of that storm in Hummel’s Cadillac Escalade, driving down Brookswood Boulevard into a former pine forest that now hosts a swath of housing developments with names like Copper Canyon and Quail Pine. “This was the boundary line until 2003,” says Hummel. “These roads dead-ended. That home sold for $350,000. Now it’s on the market for $175,000. Short sale.”

Hummel never intended to become a “certified distressed property expert” specializing in selling homes for less than is owed on their mortgages. But in Bend, she didn’t have much of a choice. No city in Oregon — or arguably, the nation — experienced a more dramatic reversal of fortunes during the Great Recession than Bend, the economic engine for Central Oregon. Home values got cut in half. Unemployment soared to over 16%. A once-promising aviation sector imploded. So did an overheated market for destination resorts. Brokers, builders and speculators once flush with cash woke up underwater and flailing. Banks renowned for their no-document, easy-money loans stopped lending. Layoffs led to notices of default; foreclosure brought bankruptcy.

How does a community recover from economic meltdown? That is the central question I am trying to answer about Bend. I start my inquiry at the offices of Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO), an organization formed to diversify the economy after the last major recession in the region, in the 1980s. My meeting is with executive director Roger Lee, marketing manager Ruth Lindley and business development manager Eric Strobel. I turn on my digital recorder and say, “I’d like to hear your take on how the recession impacted Bend’s economy.”

Silence. I read their expressions: Not this again.

It takes some time, but over the course of the interview they paint a sharp portrait of what went wrong and why. A local housing boom “fueled by speculation, not solid economics,” in Lee’s words, crashed. The local crash coincided with a national housing slump that devastated Bend’s major traded sector of building supplies. The final blow was the collapse of the local general aviation industry. Cessna shut down its local plant in April 2009. Epic Aircraft, the other major employer at the airport, went bankrupt.

“Aviation was our diversification away from construction and wood products,” says Strobel. “We had thousands of employees out at Bend Airport. It was the largest aviation cluster in the state… It just completely fell apart in six months.”

 



 

Comments   

 
Kat Merrick
+1 #1 Bend Economy Coming back to LifeKat Merrick 2011-06-27 14:19:00
Thank you for your honest, critical evaluation of Bend's overblown speculative real estate market pre-2008. I was however, very disappointed that while you were able to id the historical damage caused by the speculation, you failed to notice or mention that the speculation is still going on.

Despite the recent crash in the market, and 1,000's of homes on the market in Bend the City of Bend is allowing the developers still standing to continue to clear natural land and lay infrastructure for additional homes - something this town clearly does not need. Northwest Crossing is currently the worst offender.
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Puppie Woggins
-1 #2 EVERYTHING IS JUST FINE IN BEND, AS ALWAYSPuppie Woggins 2011-06-27 16:10:28
I don't know what this "Kat Merrick" (possible descendant of "ELEPHANT MAN" John Merrick) is talking about, because everything is JUST FINE IN BEND.

There never was a Bubble, and therefore there could have never been a crash. We all have reason for ETERNAL OPTIMISM here in Bend, because any GOD FEARING person knows, the only thing you need to prop up real estate prices is a RIVER. And possibly mountain views. And proximity to skiing. Jobs? Psh, that is so 2006.

There are some that call us CRACKED-OUT NARCISSISTS. Some call us CALI-BANGER MORONS. Some call us FART-SNIFFING DIP[blocked]S. And then there are some, possibly the worst of all, that call us some fourth thing. You know what I say to that?

Anyway. Bend is OK. As soon as we get past this little rough patch of DEVELOPER SUICIDES, IMPLODING BUSINESSES, and POSTAGE-STAMP SIZED SUBDIV'S THAT WILL NEVER BE BUILT AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE, well, we'll be just fine. JOPLIN-FINE as my grandpappy calls it.

I for one am glad that the bubble we never had brought cali-spankin speculators to this town. They done made it a much better place to live out my final years. Now they can tell me in person how they will change Bend into the last place they lived in Southern California, a place they despise, but still a place they feel the need to re-create here. Thank God for these Saints.

Frankly, this whole FINANCIAL CRISIS is really a blessing in DISGUST. Fer (yep, Fer) instance, now the entire town can forego the HARDSHIP of home ownership, and can eternally join the Rental Set, with parties every night, and only the occasional METH-FUELED GUN BATTLE to offend the eye.

Secondly, everyone is flat-ass broke. Ever-budee was getting pretty uppity, with their non-stop eating, feeding their kids and driving to work.

Third, people like working forever, and now since our munee is gone, we can all count on working forever, hopefully dying at work before they then run our corpse down the kitchen disposal at Mikkie Doogles.

Unemployment. Suicide. Landscape gashes instead of ugly trees & open areas.

THANK YOU CALIFORNIA! THANK YOU BEND CITY COUNSEL SELLOUTS! THANK YOU EDCO! THANK YOU COBA!

If this past decade has taught us nothing, it's taught us... Well, it is clear we haven't lurnt much. I just hope people see thru the MEDIA-FUELED HORROR, and open their eyes to the truth:

BEND IS ABOVE AVERAGE, ALL IT'S PEOPLE ARE FAR BETTER THAN AVERAGE, AND EVERYTHING WE'VE EVER DONE IS BETTER THAN AVERAGE. IN FACT, WE ARE BETTER THAN OURSELVES. IN FACT, WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT.

Now let's all get back to the business of WILDLY OVERMARKETING OURSELVES, cuz it seems clear from the consequences of the past, that it will do us nothing but good in the END.

P.S. Never was a bubble.
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LavaBear
0 #3 Where have all the locals gone?LavaBear 2011-06-27 18:19:47
It appears that every single business featured in this article is owned by people who have no historical ties to the area. People like myself who were raised here, bought residences before 'the boom', are highly educated and experienced, are rarely EVER recognized for their achievements. Starting a new business (not tech, retail or industry-relate d) is truly very difficult, with little community support. A lot of us have already been run out of our hometown, which by the way, was a much easier and enjoyable place to live in the '80s and early '90s before everything on two legs moved here. I miss the serenity we once had. I miss the affordability. I miss my friends who have been forced to move away. Developers have virtually erased our history and traditions and trampled Bend's natural spaces as they grow in every direction of town, like a spreading cancer. Maybe an article should be written about that, the REAL Bend, and interview the REAL people?
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Guest
0 #4 RE: Bend's economy is coming back to lifeGuest 2012-07-07 07:03:54
I used to live in Bend from the mid-70s to the early 80s. it's too bad what's happened but things in 1980 got really bad so I had to vacate and relocate. Most years I still visit Bend. In all the time I lived in Bend earning a living has been difficult at best. In recent visits, I don't see much change except for the massive highways that replaced that 2 lane roads. The main cause of employmenr is the restrictive land policies. It is difficult to impossible to create subdivisions in the Bend area.
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