It's hard to open a travel, lifestyle, or outdoor magazine lately without seeing Bend on a "Best" list. This year alone, the accolades for Bend include USA Today's list of the nation's top 10 ski towns, Men's Health's suggestions for "6 Unforgettable Adventure Vacations to Take in 2016," Travel + Leisure's roundup of "Best Winter Getaways from Portland," and Golf Advisor's "Top Ten US Value Destinations" for golf.
The kudos are not limited to Bend. Sunriver Resort made Golf Digest's Top 10 Destinations for Family Golf Trips. BIKE Magazine featured Central Oregon's mountain-biking trails almost exclusively in its 100-page Bible of Bike Tests Issue. Pronghorn, Crosswater, and Tetherow all made Golf Digest's list of "100 Greatest Public Courses 2015-2016."
Being showered constantly in compliments feels fantastic, but we have to wonder if all the shimmery accolades are blurring our vision. The unrelenting praise by ourselves and others ignores the fact that Bend was recently rated 16th in an analysis of Oregon's most successful cities, based on poverty levels, median household income, and unemployment rate. We haven't won the state's "Best Tasting Water" designation since 2012. We don't actually get 300 days of sunshine per year. And the Mirror Pond political debacle certainly isn't going to fix itself.
We'd like to believe that our region could be known for something more substantive than golfing, mountain biking, and beer.
According to Roger Lee, Executive Director of Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) we already are. He touts the region's ability to "play well together," describing the collaborative nature of local cities, counties and organizations as "...less territorial and less parochial than their counterparts in other parts of Oregon and the nation." He explains, "The tri-county region has partnerships around economic development (EDCO), community development and transit (COIC), education support (High Desert ESD), health care (St. Charles), public transportation (COACT) and a host of other things. In public works, counties share equipment with cities and vice-versa. All this seems rather intuitive and common-sense, but it is remarkable how unique this cooperation can be among jurisdictions that compete for public funding, jobs and private investment."
Lee points out a few more areas where the region excels, including commercial air service recruitment, composite aircraft technology, Search Engine Optimization, pharmaceuticals research, fuel cell technology, entrepreneurship, musical instrument manufacturing and, of course, beer. He says, "We sometimes forget that right here in little ol' Bend that Deschutes Brewery is consistently one of the top 10 craft brewers in the nation."
So while we continue to strive to diversify the things we do best, let's raise a pint and enjoy being in a fabulous place: right here, right now.