Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bend Population: A Hidden Exodus?

For the second time this year, The Bulletin has carried a story that seems aimed at dispelling persistent speculation that people are moving away from

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 12:28 PM

For the second time this year, The Bulletin has carried a story that seems aimed at dispelling persistent speculation that people are moving away from Bend in droves.


"Locals stay put in tough economy," read the headline on the front of the Local section this morning. The story quoted officials of local moving companies saying that their business has dropped off dramatically. One of them, Bryan Murphy, general manager of Allied Prestige Moving & Storage, said his business is down 50% to 60% this year.

But does this mean the locals are "staying put"? Not necessarily. As The Eye has pointed out before, moving company numbers are not the best indicator of who's moving and who's not; only those who are fairly affluent and/or have the move paid for by their companies typically hire a mover. Murphy acknowledged this factor, telling The Bulletin that more homeowners seem to be moving themselves these days.

Downtown merchant and blogger Duncan McGeary, for one, is skeptical, saying the Bulletin story "sure doesn't jibe with what I'm hearing from my customers. The same way that a few years ago I'd get the excited comment, 'We're moving to Bend!' nowadays I hear a much more subdued, 'We're leaving Bend.'"

McGeary's theory is that people are either moving themselves or waiting for the school year to end. If the latter is true, we might see a big exodus in June and July.

But The Eye has a hunch that if the locals are staying put, in many cases it's simply because they can't unload their houses. And that isn't likely to get easier any time soon, with more than 3,600 homes currently on the market in Deschutes County according to RealtyTrac.com.

While we don't agree - yet - with the BendBubble2 blog that Bend is about to turn into a ghost town, our sense is that the population either already is dropping or soon will be, maybe dramatically. With one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, people eventually are going to have to leave and go where more jobs are - even if that means selling their homes at a sacrifice or just walking away from them.

Addendum: Ethan Lindsey of OPB has reported that the growth in the workforce in Bend is almost entirely due to people (retirees, spouses, etc.) re-entering the job market, not to new people moving here.

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