On Wednesday, Bend City Councilors discussed a five-year plan for economic development within the City of Bend to help businesses thrive.
Carolyn Eagan, economic development director for the City of Bend, said the definition of economic development is: “The act of creating policy that gives decision makers the results they want in terms of economic activity.”
Typically the outcomes of economic development policies result in more jobs, higher wages and a more talented workforce, she said.
An Economic Development Department is new for the City of Bend. In May, Eagan was promoted from the Bend business advocate to the city’s economic development director to help spur economic development and oversee more than $20 million in programming including the business advocacy program, affordable housing and the Bend Municipal Airport.
Proposed goals/outcomes Eagan presented to councilors on Wednesday included:
- Increasing the average wage in Bend
- Increasing the percent of jobs in non-service-sector industries
- Increasing the density of employment on employment land (amenities)
- Increasing the number of jobs and companies at the Bend Airport
- To develop and expand downtown to maintain employment and density superiority
However, she said this is just the beginning, adding topics like tourism and affordable housing will also need to be addressed. Her goal, she said, is to align economic development outcomes with existing policy. She did note that the city’s economic department is just one piece of the community’s economic development program.
When asked what a successful economic development department looks like councilors said they’d like to see barriers to business growth removed, reduced complaints, more incentives for business, increased access to public transit and more high paying jobs, among others.
Councilor Victor Chudowsky asked how the community could create more high paying jobs. Eagan suggested implementing policies like the enterprise zone agreements that, for example, give incentives like offset permit fees or making land available at a cheaper rate for companies who are willing to pay higher wages.
Councilor Doug Knight said the Bend Airport has experienced a lot of economic viability over the years and could benefit the community economically.
“It’s a resource that deserves our attention,” he said.
Eagan said creating the environment where businesses thrive is about coordinating resources to grow, recruit and retain businesses.
“Economic development is not something the city does to business, it’s a partnership with business,” she said.
She encouraged businesses in the community to reach out to the new Bend business advocate to actively participate in the conversation.
In other news, during the regular city council meeting, the ordinance amending the Bend Development Code was approved 5-2, with councilor Knight and Mayor Jim Clinton opposed.