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Central Oregon’s Economy is Slowing, but No Major Downturn in Sight

On November 1, 2017, nearly 500 people gathered at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes Convention Center for the Bend Chamber’s 2017 Economic Forecast Breakfast. Katy Brooks, Bend Chamber CEO, kicked-off the session saying that the three speakers had a wide variety of expertise, including a state economist, a lending trends expert, and an urban development impact consultant. “You’re going to get an interesting cross section of insights that should help you in 2018.” The speakers/panelists for the session were: Damon Runberg, economist with the Oregon Employment Department; Mark Zoff, lead statistical modeler for PayNet; and Joe Minicozzi, principal at consulting firm Urban3.

…the three speakers had a wide variety of expertise, including a state economist, a lending trends expert, and an urban development impact consultant.

Runberg was the first speaker and let us know that based on key economic indicators, the growth that we’re seeing in Central Oregon is “as good as it gets.” Job growth and local GDP growth are both at historically high levels and are fueling the “grand” recovery from the recession. He mentioned, though, that he doesn’t see a significant downturn on the horizon, “We may be at the top of the mountain, but that doesn’t mean we’re in for a downhill ride.” Runberg sees continued opportunity for growth, but in smaller increments going forward.

Zoff echoed Runberg’s assessment with evidence that the small business default rate on loans was much lower here in Central Oregon when compared to the rest of the country.

Zoff echoed Runberg’s assessment with evidence that the small business default rate on loans was much lower here in Central Oregon when compared to the rest of the country. Particularly, Zoff sees PayNet’s forecast for future defaults concentrated in the southern U.S.

Joe Minicozzi had unique perspective on where our growth will and should come from, chiefly, our downtown. “Your downtown’s your golden goose. Feed it and do your math,“ Minicozzi said. His premise was that, from a tax revenue generating perspective, the downtown area produced much higher revenue per acre than a larger retail center on the edge of town. The greater concentration of revenue would allow the city to have sustained growth and more easily pay for infrastructure improvements over time.

Attendees walked away with a smile and insight for the year ahead. With detailed points and a bit of comic relief, this year’s speakers brought a sense of humor to Central Oregon economics. The audience was eager during the Q&A with thought provoking questions, some with answers, some with uncertainties, as to what the future truly holds for Central Oregon’s economy.

All in all, Central Oregon is seemingly heading on the right “road to improvement”- pun intended.

One point made by Runberg is that Central Oregon is not heavy in any one industry, which sets our community up for a steady economy. If, or when, one industry takes a turn for the worse the other industries will carry the weight. The increase in tourism has allowed businesses of all shapes sizes to grow and evolve, steadily feeding our local economy and workforce.

As with any expanding community, there is work to be done at every level of government and infrastructure choices to be made.  All in all, Central Oregon is seemingly heading on the right “road to improvement”- pun intended.

If you would like copies of the speakers’ presentations, click on the names below to download them:

Damon Runberg, economist with the Oregon Employment Department


Mark Zoff, lead statistical modeler and senior economist at PayNet


 

Joe Minicozzi, principal at Urban3 – coming soon!

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