Kalamazoo, Mich., isn't the only community trying to use the various strategies of community development to jump-start growth or to recover from economic woes. One of Oregon's core industries, timber, was decimated throughout the '70s and early '80s as federal regulations reduced the amount of federal timber that could be harvested. Communities in the area reeled.
Bend, Ore., is a town of similar size to Kalamazoo in the heart of Oregon's high desert. The surrounding landscape is laden with juniper trees, rivers for rafting, mountains for biking and rocks for climbing. Bend boasts some 300 days of sunshine a year. Not surprisingly, it's a hot spot for retirees seeking its golf courses and resorts. Bend is also home to Mt. Bachelor, a popular ski and snowboard destination. As Bend's once-thriving manufacturing base deteriorated, the area shifted its focus toward tourism. Now it's Oregon's version of California.
Like Kalamazoo, Bend tried to promote the growth of startups. Its economic development agency hosts an annual conference that awards seed money to one of a few dozen startup companies, largely in technology. Some of those young businesses are pipe dreams of local retirees, former tech executives. Bend has created a less targeted development plan than Kalamazoo, however. While Kalamazoo has focused almost exclusively on life sciences, Bend appears to take anything it can get, from PV Powered, a manufacturer of parts for solar panels, sold to Fort Collins, Colo.-based energy company Advanced Energy Industries Inc. in 2010, to Bend Research Inc., a pharmaceutical contract research organization. Deschutes Brewery produces the seventh-best-selling craft beer in the nation. G5 Search Marketing, a search engine optimization company, has been an Inc. 500 company for the past few years. And Suterra LLC, a spinoff of Bend Research originally known as Consep and renamed after being acquired by Roll International Corp., makes pesticides that use insect pheromones to kill bugs.
Steven Hartmeier was CEO of Suterra until 2010. In 2011, he re-emerged at yet another pesticide startup: Vestaron Corp., which derives its product from a peptide used by spiders to kill insects. Vestaron was launched as Venomix Inc. in Connecticut in 2009 but then relocated after it received investment from a life sciences fund. Its new home: Kalamazoo.