How Deschutes County got its groove back

How Deschutes County got its groove back

How has Central Oregon rebounded so quickly from the Great Recession?

That’s the question the economic think tank the Milken Institute sought to answer when it commissioned a regional case study on the Bend-Redmond metro area. For four consecutive years, between 2005 and 2008, Bend-Redmond placed in the top three of the Milken Institute’s annual best-performing small cities list. The area crashed to 147th by 2011, though, but was back up to eighth in 2015 and was just named the top-performing small metro area of 2016.

That rapid rebound prompted the Milken Institute to conduct a specific case study on the region.

“Based on the Bend-Redmond MSA’s ability to recover faster than its peers,” the introduction of the 32-page document reads, “and indeed outperform every other small metro on our most recent index, this case study aims to illuminate the characteristics, choices, and strategies that contributed to its revival,”

The study, which you can find here, is a great read if you have the time. Here’s a few quick takeaways if you don’t:

  • People moving here are highly educated: Almost 25 percent of people who moved to the Bend-Redmond area in 2015 had a Bachelor’s degree and an additional 14 percent had a Masters’ degree. Both those numbers were the highest since the region began keeping track of them in 2006. education chart
  • Tourism is a key industry, but we’re not overly reliant on it: In 1981, tourism-related dollars made up 6.01 percent of the region’s GDP. In 2016, that number had risen to 6.11 percent. According to Milken, tourism-related GDP has hovered in that 6 percent range for the past 25 years with little variation.
  • We were way too reliant on the construction industry pre-recession: In 2006, the construction industry accounted for 11.66 percent of all employment in the Bend-Redmond area. By 2012, that number had plummeted to 4.93 percent. GDP from construction crashed, going from almost $710 million in 2006 to $265 million in 2011. Part of the region’s rebirth seems to be in finding a healthy relationship with the construction industry. In 2015, construction-related jobs made up 7.06 percent of jobs in the Bend-Redmond area and it accounted for $404.5 million in table


  • The health-care industry has been a rock for the area: Even during the recession, Bend-Redmond’s health-care industry continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace than in the pre-recession years. In 2015 the industry was responsible for 14.72 percent of the metro area’s jobs. Nearly 11,000 people were employed by the health-care industry in 2015, a 24 percent increase since 2009.table 2
  • The beer economy in Central Oregon is booming: Beverage manufacturing GDP has exploded since 2010, growing a massive 77.27 percent in 2013. Growth has remained in the double digits ever since. Local job growth in beverage manufacturing – mainly beer but also coffee, cider and kombucha –  far surpassed that at the state and national levels from 2011 to 2015. The industry’s share of overall employment during those years increased159.2 percent, while beverage jobs in Oregon and the nation expanded their shares by 46.77 percent and 16.34 percent, respectively.

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