Bend and Central Oregon Growth for Digital Billboards

Once a sleepy little resort haven in central Oregon, Bend has done a lot of growing up over the last few decades. It wasn’t long ago that out of state population centers starting migrating to this haven of sun, snow and fun.  The town has added approximately 50,000 residents just since the early 1990s. Retiree’s, near-retiree’s along with families looking to escape the big city for a better balance of work/life are flocking to the area. This region loves the outdoors and is happy to feature its rich variety of outdoor activity to tourists and residents alike.

Digital and Standard Billboard Signs in and around Bend

As population and tourism grows, conventional billboard signs continue to be a significant advertising medium in around central Oregon. Although the number of non-digital billboards are somewhat limited in number, there are still several advertising opportunities on conventional boards in the central Oregon region.  The growth of digital signs in and around the Bend area however is significantly overshadowed by other areas of northern and southern Oregon. This is many times due to local central Oregon city government restrictions.  As of this writing Bend has allowed only one digital sign along highway 97 close to the Lowes Home Improvement store area.  The company managed to get approval for this digital signage location prior to the sign ordinance being revised. The nearby city of Redmond has restricted digital signage altogether since the inception of the technology considering it a distraction to drivers.

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Growth of Bend Oregon

Bend Oregon has long been a favorite of many bigger-city transplants and tourists alike.  Bend’s great outdoor activities include fantastic skiing, snowshoeing, cycling, hiking, running, fishing, camping and boating combined with the boom in technology startups and lifestyle has created a highly desirable haven for those seeking quality of life issues and a slower pace.

Hang around any downtown coffee shop and you’ll hear talk of Bend becoming the next Austin Texas or Boulder Colorado.  Bend was once a small ski resort town in the Central Oregon high desert region but is now destined for much bigger goals. Bend’s big push began in the late 80s and early 90s as the word got around many city dwellers and retirees about a fantastic little Central Oregon town with a more laid back lifestyle and plenty of modern amenities. Fifty and sixty something Los Angeles and San Francisco transplants looking for a refuge to call their own made-up a significant percentage of those moving to the Bend region in those days.

Mountain-Rich Bend and Surrounding Cities

Located about two and a half hours east of Eugene, almost smack dab in the center of Central Oregon’s Deschutes County, Bend is the largest city of this Central Oregon region and is a surrounding area regional hub for shopping and business.  The area elevation if hovering around 3,500 feet above sea level and surrounded by the beauty of some of the southern Cascade Mountains most majestic mountains including Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, South Sister, Middle Sister, North Sister, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack and Mt Jefferson.  Deschutes County’s cities include La Pine, Three Rivers, Sunriver, River Woods, Elk Lake, Millican Brothers, Tumalo, Sisters, Redmond, Terrebonne, Alfafa and other smaller entities.

Whether in Bend

While Oregon is generally known for wet, overcast weather trends, Bend is the welcome exception.  Perhaps this perception is due to the northern area of Portland which typically receives over 43 inches of rain annually. Bend receives only a little over 11 inches a year. Most of the heavy precipitation falls as snow in the local Cascade Mountains surrounding the populated areas of Bend and Richmond.  This helps make the region one of the best winter sport zones in the nation while creating a superior local watershed for farming and crystal clear, clean city water supply. Bend experiences over 290 days of sunshine a year helping contribute to a generally more positive outlook of residents and employees that combined with the quality outdoor life, translates to a more effective and productive business environment,

Bend’s Fantastic Growth

Rising out of the ashes of the hard-hit timber industry, the City of Bend has added approximately 50,000 residents since the early 90s.  This is immense growth for a town of only 30,000 in the days of the advent of alternative rock to this writing in 2016. Bend was considered a fairly small town in as recent as 1979 with a population less than 20,000. Embracing it, this little town that could be much more never balked at its incredible growth, sculpting a place for itself amongst the Baby Boomers, artists, yuppie, technology nerds and outdoor enthusiasts.   While Bend’s officials estimated their town would grow even faster than it did in the last 6 years. Ten years ago they estimated the population would reach over 91,000 people.  The Great Recession may have played a role in the estimate shortfall.

In the real world, Bend’s population has managed to hit a phenomenal figure of over 87,000 people. Population estimates gathered from the Census Bureau show this amazing little outdoor fun-region growing much faster than many other areas in the State of Oregon.  In fact the entire Central Oregon group of cities where Bend is located continue to overtake almost all regions in the evergreen state.

Expanding the Boundaries

City planning officials in Bend are not remaining stagnant in their latest attempt to pursue an expansion of the city’s boundaries by approximately 2,000 acres.  This expansion is seen as necessary to accommodate the city’s anticipated population growth into the year 2028.  Local public hearings on the comprehensive plan will begin in late August 2016.

The boundary expansion also encompasses a rezoning provision to facilitate higher density housing in existing residentially zoned areas.  The total number of anticipated new homes are in the 17,000 range inclusive of the rezoned and expansion areas of the plan.

Bend’s latest expansion proposal comes after a failed attempt at an even more aggressive expansion proposal in 2010 of over 8000 acres.  The state back then claimed the city didn’t do enough to embrace concentration density concerns. In this attempt to facilitate growth as in 2010, there will be a state review process to ensure the plan meets the states guidelines of managing urban sprawl. The state’s main concern is protecting farmland and existing property owner’s rights.  The review process also allows for additional land use concerns and provides an opportunity for property owners and others to have their say at the state level as to the latest city boundary expansion plans move forward in the state’s review process.

Bend’s Ski Areas

The Bend/Sisters area is home to world class skiing donning two of Oregon’s best ski resorts.  Mt. Bachelor has garnered worldwide acclaim as a destination to some of the sport’s top skiers. This ski area offers over 3600 acres of 360 degree skiing on highly maintained and groomed slopes.  Besides the manicured slopes skiers also find tree skiing in relatively untouched heavy winter powder areas.

A more local-oriented ski resort located on U.S. Route 20, is considered Bend’s family resort. Offering night skiing and easier slopes, Hoodoo Ski Resort still enjoys many of the extraordinary snow attributes of Mt. Bachelor. No stranger to fantastic powder, this resort is a favorite for those wanting a more moderate skiing experience where they can get their legs in shape in preparation for the more aggressive and professionally oriented Mt Bachelor.

Craft Brewers Rule

Over the last 10 years Bend has led the craft brew revolution with its Deschutes Brewery claiming the foremost position.  Deschutes is the firth-largest craft brewery in the world as of this writing. Deschutes, considered by many to be the pioneer of the small brewery craze that has swept the nation was first founded in 1988, far ahead of the more recent craft brewery insurrection. Central Oregon continues to grow as a specialty brewery king with 24 additional manufacturers occupying the space.

The Startup and Incubator Takeover of Bend

Bend has sprouted a number of high tech startups over the last decade. Listening to the coffee shop gossip around town, one would think Bend to become the Silicon Valley of Oregon.  Featured in business startup magazines as the most entrepreneurial city in America, Bend is definitely in the computer coder’s and startup company spotlight.

The business community in Bend is fantastically diverse and setting standards around the country as a high-tech small town America mecca for those looking to deliver the next Facebook or Uber to the world. While Portland has serious competition in this realm, Bend is hot on their heels.

Active and adventurous young people consider Bend to be one of the coolest places on earth to perform their high-tech deeds. Word has spread within the young tech culture that there are other options than the high cost of living Silicon Valley area.  Bend is the new frontier for many younger individuals a more affordable, fun-filled simpler way of life.

In addition to the technology and software sector, there are highly successful business executives from virtually every industry including medical, education, legal, film, publishing, theater, art, gas, oil, and many more in and about the Bend area. New ideas fostering unique businesses and venture capital seem to be finding their way into this unlikely small town America in many sectors.

These type of high-tech businesses are being spurred on by incubator/accelerator projects designed to leverage all of the attributes of this work/lifestyle idealistic youth haven.  FoundersPad (previously called VentureBox) is an example of this type of company. This company started in Bend in 2012 and has devoted much of its resources to helping new companies raise millions of dollars to get off the ground and become quality, sustainable successful businesses. Some of their success stories include Amplion Research, Cividata, CrowdStreet, Droplr, JettStream, Kardio, Nouvola, Solstice SteadyBudget, ZeroTransform ziPede and more.

Housing and Rental Market in Bend

The Bend area has become known as the boom and bust housing capital of Oregon. Prior to the Great Recession, Bend’s housing market was so hot that it led the nation in property value increases from the years 2005 to 2006.  The housing market crashed harder than many other market in the state and many areas of the country when the recession raised its ugly head in the 2008/2009 period.

Today, the housing market is back and stronger than ever with new home permits and prices continuing to rise and a tremendous demand for housing growing once again. Today, it’s typical for homes to be on the market for as little as a week.  As of this writing in 2016, many of the single family real estate transactions involve cash offers by adventurous entrepreneurs or well-to-do second home owners from the bay area of Northern California or Portland.

The average number of single family permits issued in Deschutes County in recent years have been steadily increasing from only 91 permits in 2010 to 432 permits in 2015.  The trend continues as of this writing in that 2016 is expected to show even larger growth.

In the rental sector, there is currently a significant shortage of affordable apartment housing for low to medium income individuals.  The vacancy rate for apartment dwellers is very small in Bend, currently coming in at less than one percent. There may be only a dozen to two dozen units available at any one time in the entire city.  Multifamily projects are at a premium with only one permit issued for every ten single family units.

Fortunately there is a push to build new multiunit apartments in Bend with many hundreds of units on the way after many years of stagnation.  Between 2009 and 2012 only six permits for multiunit housing units were issued.  That number has steadily improved since then with 40 permits for multiunit housing issued in 2015 alone, and even more scheduled for 2016.

Shopping Centers Old and New

Old Mill District Mall

Located southwest of Bend’s downtown area, a favorite of many locals and out of town visitors is the Old Mill District.  Formerly two huge lumber mills that were converted to a unique shopping center representing a one of a kind place to shop and hangout that pays tribute to the area’s history.

Modern meets old in this 170 acre cleverly designed mall sitting directly along the Deschutes River. The mall opened in 1992 with buildings that follow an early 20thCentury mill theme. Certain elements of the two 1916 mill’s buildings were incorporated throughout this outdoor shopping project. Nine of the original mill’s buildings, including the huge smokestacks were renovated and incorporated into this one of a kind shopping center design.

An added bonus to the area came in 2001 as the 8000 capacity Les Schwab Amphitheater was built along the Deschutes River as part of the Old Mill District project. Both local and world-renowned performers are regulars at this venue adding to the overall economic impact of the district.

Following the depletion of Central Oregon’s forests due to over-logging in the 1950, the mill area became a neglected eyesore in Bend’s southwest.  The developer restored a remarkable length of the riverfront area along the Old Mill District. The riverfront area was previously out of bounds to the general public for almost 80 years due to the debris and eroded banks of the river as a result of decades of logging and mill production. The public can now leisurely stroll along the banks of the Deschutes as a result of the developers far-sighted design considerations.

The original sawmills that were once considered the largest pine mills in the world employed 2000 people. These mills were once the main employer of the area. Kudos must go out to project developer William Smith Properties for both their environmental considerations and developing a property that collectively employs approximately 2500 people exhibiting a significantly positive economic impact on the area.

Bend Factory Stores – Outlet Mall

The immense growth in population along with the resultant visitor traffic in the Bend area starting in the early 1990s spurred increased travel to the area. With the preponderance of outlet malls springing-up across the nation at the time, developers in Bend followed suit with Bend Factory Store Outlet Mall strategically placed in the south part of town along one of two main routes in and out of town highway 97.  The outdoor mall follows the business model of many other outlet shopping centers offering overstocked and deeply discounted items from well-known nationwide brands and a couple of food establishments.

As of this writing, the following stores are tenants at Bend Factory Stores: Hickory Farms, Carter’s & Kids, Christopher & Banks, Classic Beauty Supply, Classic Hair Design, Coach Factory Store/Coach Men’s Factory Store, Columbia Sportswear, Dress Barn, Eddie Bauer Outlet, GNC, Kitchen Collection, Leggs Hanes Bali Playtex, Maurices, Nike Factory Store, Pasta House Restaurant, Pearl iZumi, Pendleton Outlet, Rack Room Shoes, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Tuesday Morning, Van Heusen.