Why Bend, OR is a Best Place to Live
The jewel of central Oregon has year-round amenities that are the envy of much larger metropolitan areas
<p>For Bend, tourism is like a gateway drug. People come here and visit, and then they want a little more, and the next thing you know they are moving here and figuring out how to make a living.</p>
Assistant City Manager
Once upon a time, Bend was “Timber Town USA,” its economy driven by the resource-extractive industries of logging and milling. But it’s been a quarter-century since the timber industry played a significant role in the local economy, and these days Bend is best known for tourism, real estate development, health care and microbreweries. Meanwhile, its reputation as one of the best places to live, work and visit is helping Bend attract and develop a new wave of startups and high-tech companies that promise to lead the city to the next stage in its evolution.
“For Bend, tourism is like a gateway drug. People come here and visit, and then they want a little more, and the next thing you know they are moving here and figuring out how to make a living,” says assistant city manager Jon Skidmore, explaining why Bend is so adept at attracting the kind of creative, talented people who are bringing their ideas and their companies with them.
People are flocking to Bend – and then settling down or retiring there – for two primary reasons: outdoor recreational opportunities and beer. Skiers and snowboarders come from far and wide to experience Mt Bachelor, while much the same can be said of the kayakers and rafters who navigate the Deschutes River and the rock climbers who enjoy the challenging faces of Smith Rock. Never mind all the places to go golfing, fishing, hiking, camping, biking, mountain biking and paragliding.
Bend is also a great place to live if you’re a beer lover and is now sometimes referred to as “Beer Town USA,” as it’s home to more than a dozen microbreweries, including Deschutes Brewery, Bend Brewing Co., Goodlife Brewing Co., Silver Moon Brewing, Worthy Brewing and Boneyard Beer, among others. Intrepid beer enthusiasts who visit the 16 breweries on the city’s Bend Ale Trail have the opportunity to win prizes for earning stamps on the Ale Trail “passport,” while also enjoying Bend’s other Drinkable Diversions – that is, the area’s wineries, distilleries and cider makers, which include the provocatively-named Naked Winery, which has made it its mission to “cut the divorce rate in half by encouraging couples to share a glass of wine nightly.”
Meanwhile, the biggest news in town is in education, as Oregon State University-Cascades recently broke ground on a four-year university campus on the west side of town. “Having a research-based university that is going to focus on high-tech degrees is a fantastic opportunity for the city,” Skidmore says, before noting that it will effectively complement the current “two-and-two” program of Central Oregon Community College and OSU-Cascades, and also build on the current hospitality program, which provides students the opportunity to gain invaluable real-world experience at the various resorts in and around the city.
For one, Skidmore believes the new campus will only add to Bend’s considerable appeal. “I went to the University of Oregon in Eugene,” begins the 40-something Skidmore, “but if there had been an option to go to OSU-Cascades, Bend would have been a no-brainer choice for me. I’ve got to imagine there will be a lot of 18-22 year-olds who would think along the same lines.”