TRIP TO SALEM: Innovation District at OSU-Cascades in the Works

On March 20, Bend Chamber President/CEO, Katy Brooks, traveled to Salem with key Chamber members to meet with elected officials and encourage support of a bill, and its proposed amendments, which would allow OSU-Cascades to become an innovation district. Accompanying Katy were Becky Johnson, Vice President at OSU-Cascades, Lisa Hale, CEO at Grace Bio-Labs, Preston Callicott, CEO at Five Talent Software, and Teri Hockett, Vice President at Technology Association of Oregon.

You can watch and listen to Representative Helt address the Committee by following this link and clicking on “HB 2394 Public Hearing.” If you scroll to the 52:00 mark you can watch Katy Brooks and Lisa Hale speak before the House Committee on Economic Development!

In short, innovation districts create communities and jobs in a central area that includes private businesses, education, residential, commercial and public spaces. In a handout for State Representatives and Senators, innovation districts are explained as:

“An innovation district is the heightened clustering of anchor educational institutions, companies, and start-ups in small geographic areas. They build burgeoning new economies and spark innovation and growth by concentrating business in places designed for people to live, work, play and interact with others. The growing application of “open innovation”—where companies work with other firms, inventors, and researchers to generate new ideas and bring them to market—has changed how cities are building economic hubs.            


The growing preference of young talented workers to congregate in vibrant neighborhoods that offer choices in housing, transportation, and amenities has made innovation districts attractive for investment. These districts create an innovation ecosystem—the synergistic relationship between people, firms, and place that facilitates idea generation and advances commercialization.


The OSU-Cascades campus is the epicenter of Bend’s Innovation District. In addition to a growing academic campus, it will include investment and location of businesses who are anchored in co-location, research and open innovation. The district will leverage the fast growing and entrepreneurial economy of Central Oregon with a dynamic and innovative university. OSU-C District blends academic-led instruction and research with industry-led innovation. The District will offer the physical environment for industry to invent and create in proximity and collaboration with other entrepreneurs, and is already securing commitments for private investment. The campus is the anchor to the City of Bend’s Innovation District, which connects commercial and industrial land with the Deschutes River, and Bend’s downtown urban center.”

How the bill, HB 2934, would work is by allocating moneys to the Oregon Business Development Department to grant funds to innovation ecosystems consisting of certain economic, physical and networking assets. Representative Cheri Helt is a chief co-sponsor of the bill and submitted the amendment for OSU-Cascades to become eligible for the funding. Representative Jack Zika is also a sponsor.


This part of the legislative process where the committee listens to testimony is a key stage gate to get through. However, there are numbers of steps in the process before a vote on the bill will take place and we’ll know if OSU-Cascades will receive funding. The amendments have to be approved in a work session, then there’s a committee vote, then it goes to the House for a vote, then, finally, to the Senate. Assuming the bill and amendments do pass, then the Ways and Means Committee takes it up for funding.

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