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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
The new austerity, as applied to dog adventure products, bureaucrats

 

0711_Bend_06
Ruff Wear president Will Blount (left) and founder Patrick Kruse pioneered the market for outdoor supplies for dogs. The company has been debt free since 2003 and has increased payroll every year since its founding 15 years ago.
Ruff Wear, a Bend-based company that has pioneered the market for outdoor products for dogs, isn’t growing at anywhere near the clip of G5 or 10 Barrel. President Will Blount says 10% annual growth works just fine for him. “Growth for the sake of growth can actually kill a brand,” he says. “We’re trying to build a company that will be here 100 years from now, 1,000 years from now… We look at it like climbing. You take a step forward and if it feels right you keep going.”

 

The outdoor sports analogy makes sense in Blount’s case. An avid backcountry skier, fly fisherman and kayaker, he moved to Bend with his wife 10 years ago after suffering through an endless traffic jam in Denver (too big) and a brief experiment with McCall, Idaho (too small). He landed his job at Ruff Wear by impressing founder Patrick Kruse with his composure on a whitewater river trip. Kruse was shifting from kayak gear to dog gear — an easy market choice when you consider the numbers: 18,000 kayakers and 40 million dogs.

Ruff Wear started with collapsible dog bowls made from the same materials used to keep tents dry. It has expanded into dog toys, dog life jackets and so on. The newest product is for joring, or skiing/skateboarding along behind a harnessed dog.

Part of the Ruff Wear marketing strategy involves running free dog-washing stations during an annual celebration of the Appalachian hiking trail in Virginia. Another initiative involves distributing free Ruff Wear chew toys to star avalanche dogs. The business recently opened a 10,000-square-foot warehouse on Bend’s east side. Blount notes with pride that the company has been debt free since 2003 and has grown payroll and benefits every year since its inception 15 years ago.

Not far from Ruff Wear headquarters in Bend’s Northwest hills, a once-obscure tech company called GL Solutions is running out of room faster than G5 is downtown. The business recently doubled from 40 people to 80 people after a well-publicized hiring binge that founder Bill Moseley says brought 900 applicants. “In three years we’ll be 250 people,” Moseley predicts.

The new jobs are to fulfill the largest contract GL Solutions has won: a $9 million deal to help North Carolina manage its health services system. It’s complex, laborious stuff (especially when compared to heading out to the high country to test out doggy boots) — but talk about opportunity. The goal of Moseley’s software business is to shake up government agencies and make them more efficient.

Moseley has a master’s degree in public administration and a law degree. He was a public sector employee with a mission to improve the Oregon Department of Justice’s information technology system when he decided to go into business making government work better, working from Lake Oswego for a few years before moving to Bend.

In Bend, Moseley kept the business going by borrowing money from friends and family and paying himself a meager salary. He and his team built five iterations of their software, and wrestled with new complexities with each new client. “In government the operating rules are established in statutes,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter if it makes sense.”

On the positive side, the challenge of building software for everyone from the Oregon Board of Accountancy to the Wyoming Board of Geology kept large competitors out of the game. GL Solutions has agency clients in 18 states, and Moseley predicts strong growth as taxpayers continue to demand government reforms. He plans to remain in Bend because he considers it an excellent environment for growing businesses —especially after the recession. “Bend was getting to be a place where middle-class people couldn’t afford to live anymore,” he says. “I was happy to see housing prices fall.”



 

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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