Author Archives: EDCO



BEND, OR (February 27, 2017) – The Los Angeles-based Milken Institute released the findings to its most recent Best Performing Small Cities study, affirming the Bend-Redmond area as number one in the country. The Milken Institute has tracked and evaluated the success of metropolitan areas in its Best-Performing Cities index since 1999, highlighting urban regions that are outperforming their peers on key measures of economic health, including total employment and wage growth.

Led by economist Minoli Ratnatunga and a team of research analysts at the Institute, conclusions from their investigation included a list of nine “key findings” across a broad spectrum of factors. While some success factors were specific to the location (i.e. scenic beauty), several policies and strategies employed in the Bend-Redmond area could be implemented in similar regions across the country. The just released “Regional Performance Over Time” research aims to identify those elements.

“We really enjoyed learning more about the extremely collaborative approach the Bend-Redmond region continually takes towards development and think it bodes well for your economy,” stated Minoli Ratnatunga, Associate Director of Regional Economics Research at the Milken Institute. We hope that the lessons learned from Central Oregon will be of use to local decision-makers across the country.”

This past fall, Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) helped Milken Institute researchers with introductions to individuals and organizations across the area that could provide perspectives and illuminate strategies and efforts to improve and diversify the economy.

“It was an honor to work with the Milken Institute economists, and to be selected for this study,” said Roger Lee, EDCO Executive Director. “We will be following their ongoing research about other places in the country from which we can learn and improve.”

For the complete study, click here.

About The Milken Institute

The Milken Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank determined to increase global prosperity by advancing collaborative solutions that widen access to capital, create jobs, and improve health. They achieve this through independent, data-driven research, action-oriented meetings, and meaningful policy initiatives. For more information, visit

About Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO)

Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) is a non-profit corporation supported by private and public members and stakeholders, whose mission is to create middle-class jobs in Central Oregon by: recruiting new employers to move to the region; helping entrepreneurs start new, scalable businesses; and working with businesses that are already here to grow their operations. For more information, visit

For Press Inquiries:
Roger Lee
Executive Director, EDCO
541.388.3236 x1


South Deschutes County Emerging as Next Economic Development Opportunity

Excerpt from Cascade Business News:

“Sunriver, Three Rivers South, and La Pine are poised for growth!  Perhaps now more than ever South County is in a position to grow. Infrastructure is solid and growing, the community united around growth, available property in our 330-acre business park, enterprise zone benefits,  great changes/expansion on the Hwy 97 corridor.  All that combined with low business start-up costs and it spells economic vitality. South county is poised and ready, ” according to Steve Parnell, the EDCO Sunriver-La Pine area director. Parnell works with Economic Development of Central Oregon (EDCO), Sunriver-LaPine Economic Development Advisory Board (SLED) to jumpstart projects and businesses throughout South Deschutes County or Newberry Country.


For the complete story, visit Cascade Business News.

Outdoor Project, 2016 BVC Winners, Awarded Additional $2M in Funding

Outdoor Project Secures Series A Funding
— $2M investment will drive nationwide expansion —
— Oregon Angel Fund leads the round with Cascade Angels’ support —
— Company was awarded $150k as winners of 2016 Bend Venture Conference —

BEND, OR (February 23, 2017) – Local startup Outdoor Project—found online at—announced this week that it has secured a total of $2M in a Series A funding round. This past October, Outdoor Project was awarded $150,000 in funding as part of the Bend Venture Conference.

The most recent investment was led by Oregon Angel Fund, and includes Cascade Angels. Outdoor Project is Oregon Angel Fund’s first digital media investment and the second to be added to Cascade Angels’ portfolio. The round includes participation from other angel investors and industry veterans from the digital media and outdoor industries.

“When we first met with Outdoor Project, we were immediately impressed by their team. They are clearly very passionate and knowledgeable about the outdoors and have created a great way to share experiences with other passionate enthusiasts,” said Jon Maroney, a partner at Oregon Angel Fund.  “ OAF is very excited to be part of Outdoor Project’s adventure.”

Julie Harrelson, Fund Manager for Cascade Angels, added “we are pleased to be making this investment in Outdoor Project. Outdoor Project impressed our team with their growing track record of success over the past three years. This is our sixth and final investment for 2016 and we’re excited to be an integral part of their business.”

Tyson Gillard, Co-Founder and CEO at Outdoor Project commented, “Closing this funding round is tremendous validation for the quality work our contributors and team put into building the world’s greatest outdoor adventure guidebook. Great media, detailed maps and inspiring, complete content is a key piece to support an ever-growing movement for people, largely millennials and young families, to get outside. We’re excited to expand our content to the entire U.S. and key markets in Canada in 2017.”

Outdoor Project will use a portion of the funding to add five new hires to support its six person founding team. It will also bring on more adventurers to join its nearly 200 active contributors who provide the media and information used to build adventures on the website. The company will announce these key industry hires as well as new board members in the coming weeks.

Gillard concluded, “Building a successful digital media company requires a great team that understands how brands can leverage great content to connect with their target audience, and we’ve been fortunate to add some amazing industry insiders to the business.”

About Outdoor Project

Outdoor Project’s goal is to create the most comprehensive online resource and the largest community for outdoor adventure and travel, with a plan to revolutionize the way that people find, search for and share their outdoor experience. The website provides photos, maps, and guides for all types of human-powered outdoor activities. The content aims to inspire users to explore new places, head a little bit further down their favorite trails, and get outside more often to find adventure. Outdoor Project starts with exceptional photography and adventure videos, custom maps, and guides. A community of members completes the picture. Outdoor Project can be found at

About Oregon Angel Fund

Founded in 2007, OAF is a community supported, professionally managed, investor driven venture capital fund backed by the leaders of Oregon’s business, technology, and entrepreneurial communities. The fund’s largest investors include the State of Oregon, the Oregon Community Foundation, and the Meyer Memorial Trust. OAF invests $10 million annually in the most promising startups and early-stage growth companies in Oregon and SW Washington. Over 2,200 jobs have been created by the over 40 companies in the portfolio. For more information please visit:

About Cascade Angels

Founded in 2013, Cascade Angels is a professionally managed, investor driven venture fund that creates opportunities for investors and businesses with connections to Central Oregon to drive economic growth and fuel prosperity. The Fund’s investors include prominent business leaders, exited entrepreneurs and institutional investors who are committed to contributing to a sustainable economy and building Oregon’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Since 2014, Cascade Angels Fund has invested almost $2M in 13 early stage companies that cumulatively employ over 100 people. For more information, visit or

About the Bend Venture Conference
The Bend Venture Conference, hosted by Economic Development for Central Oregon, is one of the largest angel conferences in the country. More than 500 attendees, six funds, 32 prominent investors, and 90 companies participated in 2016’s conference, where close to $4 million was awarded to 12 winners.


Free Advice: 5 ways to improve your start-up pitch

Brian Vierra, EDCO’s Venture Catalyst, provides five ways to improve your business pitch. Vierra has both pitched — and sold — a business to investors. He exited a corporate training company he founded in 2007. He also happens to be on the investor committee for the Oregon Angel Fund. In that capacity, he reviews dozens of pitches a month to determine whether they are worthy of investment.

And finally, as the organizer of the upcoming Bend Venture Conference, he’s currently helping review pitches from both the launch and concept stage companies. It’s basically all pitches, all the time. So here is Vierra’s free advice for making your pitch stand out.

1. Clearly state the problem your business is going to solve.

Before you even go into what your company does, Vierra wants to know what problem you’re addressing and why your business is coming into existence right now. “I’ve gone through a couple of companies where it doesn’t look like there’s a problem to solve,” Vierra says. “You have to hit people at their pain points. That’s one of the success factors.”

2. Use more pictures in your presentation.

“Every once in a while I’ll see a slide that is 10 different bullet point,” Vierra says. “No one is going to read all that.” Vierra likes to see pictures, graphs and charts that illustrate the problem your business is trying to solve and your solution. “Investors want it to be easy to move forward,” he says. “If it’s a struggle and they need to make a huge effort to understand what you do, you decrease the odds of them becoming involved.”

3. Assume in your revenue projections that you’ve already received funding.

“I’ve seen two kind of projections, one that shows what happens if they get the funding. And another where the founders assume they won’t get any funding and then project what their numbers are going to look like,” Vierra says. The latter fizzles because it reveals no ambition. “If you’re asking for $500,000 or $1 million, I want to know what you’re going to do with it and what that will look like,” he says.

4. Focus, focus, focus.

Entrepreneurs have big ideas. Usually lots of them. But they often forget that this is the first time an investor is being exposed to their first and best idea, and the speed right past it.

“You can’t immediately jump into your other streams of revenue and other partnerships and how you can do this thing or that,” Vierra says. “Slow down. Go back to what is the first business idea and how big can that get.” Once you set the hook, you want to reel those fish in, instead of trying to bait them with even more hooks.

5. D.U.A (Don’t Use Acronyms)

Investors consider lots of pitches from a wide variety of industries. It’s challenging to stay current on the all the acronyms and jargon in your business. Instead of boggling their mind with an alphabet soup, make it easy for investors (and, ahem, bloggers) to understand what you do. “As an investor, when you start hearing about things you’re unfamiliar with, you begin to question whether you know enough to jump in and be of help,” Vierra says.

Interview with McConnell Labs CEO, Jim McConnell

First, your girlfriend (now your wife) comes up with an idea for your business that ends up turning into your life’s work. Then your business grows and you become more and more successful. What’s the next step? You decide to relocate your business to the community where your in-laws have moved. After all, in a very direct way, they are responsible for so many good things in your life.

However, moving a successful manufacturing business from Eugene to Bend is not a simple process. There’s finding a site, seeking tax credits, moving and recruiting employees. “The people in Redmond made it as easy as possible to relocate,” says Jim McConnell, CEO. “From the realtor who dropped everything to send me pictures of the building we ended up buying that very day he sent the pictures, to the REDI people who helped me fill out enterprise paperwork, to the fire marshal who volunteered to stop by on her way home from work to just to give some quick feedback on how we were setting up the manufacturing lines.”

Three years later, Jim and his wife, Lezlie, along with their children and her parents are an integral part of Central Oregon’s family. The benefits to Jim are clear – an integration of his work and family life. The benefit are also clear in the community – an entrepreneur dedicated to growing his business that exports throughout the country and the world plus a local business owner invested in his community.

Visit the McConnell Labs website for more information!

– This Move business story brought to you by Lisa Dobey, EDCO Volunteer

Ochoco Arms – Where are they now

Ochoco Arms, 2013 Bend Venture Conference Concept Stage Winner

Less than a year ago, Prineville-based Ochoco Arms won the Bend Venture Conference Concept-Stage Division, taking home the $10,000 prize presented by BendBroadband. We touched base with CEO Sam Lambert to get an update on the company and learn what has transpired in the past year.

When it comes to the outdoors, Central Oregon is overflowing with opportunity. From Mount Bachelor to the high desert, businesses are building up around the area’s recreational bounty to take advantage of what our region has to offer.

Sam Lambert is one of those entrepreneurs who has taken his recreational passion – in his case, hunting and shooting sports — to invent a laser sight to improve shotgun accuracy. That vision spawned Ochoco Arms, the Bend Venture Conference Concept Stage winner in 2013.

Competing in last year’s Bend Venture Conference, Lambert thought that he might be able to get experience presenting his business plan, make some connections, and meet investors.

“What I didn’t anticipate was the awareness and recognition that winning would get from the major players in the firearms industry. They discovered Ochoco Arms because of BVC,” said Lambert. “We’ve been discovered by key advisors, engineers and potential partners. BVC has opened the floodgates of interest and that took us by surprise.”

Ochoco Arms is one of many businesses in Central Oregon that form a hub of innovation in the firearms industry, which is seeing great success and draws national and international attention to the region.

“BVC has become such a prestigious event that it brings a lot of attention to the young companies that present there,” says Lambert. However, for Ochoco Arms, the tremendous attention has caused some challenges.

“Ochoco Arms has been approached with a lot of opportunities for strategic partnerships. Not all are a great fit, but the attention is opening doors that will benefit us when we get our product into the market. Entering BVC was the single best decision I have made for my company,” said Lambert.

Ochoco Arms is in the final stages of engineering its shotgun laser site and is on schedule to launch in early 2015.

Watch Lambert’s BVC winning Ochoco Arms presentation. For more information on Ochoco Arms, visit the website, Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter.

$500K estimated BVC investment could break angel conference record in Oregon

Craft3 adds $26,500 to the 2014 BVC Fund, and launch stage finalists are announced

BEND, Ore. – October 2, 2014 – Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO), host of the annual Bend Venture Conference (BVC), has selected the 5 launch stage companies that will go on to compete for an estimated $500,000 at the 2014 BVC as Craft3, a CDFI lender that expanded operations to Central Oregon last year, adds a $26,500 investment to the BVC Fund.

“In BVC’s eleven year history, there have been eight cash awards amounting to over $1.25 million dollars,” said Brian Vierra, EDCO Venture Catalyst. “In its 11th year, to have close to half a million dollars up for grabs, speaks to the strength of the entrepreneurial investment community in Central Oregon, and the sophistication of the type of businesses that have found success here.” Jason Moyer, Fund Manager for the 2014 BVC LLC added: “With record investment and venture capital quality deals, the BVC has gone pro.”

The 2014 BVC award will be the largest in the region at an estimated $500,000 of commitments to invest in the 5 launch state finalists. Here is a break-down of the tally to date:

  • BVC LLC Fund Angels – $100,000+
  • Cascade Angels Fund – $121,900
  • Seven Peaks Ventures – $100,000
  • Oregon Growth Account – $50,000
  • Oregon Community Foundation – $25,000
  • Craft3 – $26,500
  • Additional side investments – commitments currently at $75,000
  • Mandala Fire Starter Marketing Program – $50,000 worth of services awarded to any or all of the 5 finalists
  • Palo Alto Live Plan – $1,500

“Craft3 is proud to invest in the Bend Venture Conference Fund,” said Turner Waskom, Craft3 Senior Business Lender. “This investment is another way that Craft3 can help to start and grow small business while strengthening economic resilience in the region.”

The Bend Venture Conference is divided into two categories that consist of five launch stage and five concept stage companies vying for investment and cash prizes. The concept stage finalists compete for a $10,000 cash prize from BendBroadband while the launch stage finalist could collect what is currently a nearly $500,000 investment, with funds still coming in from our angel investors.

In alphabetical order, the launch stage finalists are:

  1. Amplion provides business intelligence solutions that give pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies strategic control of the complete clinical biomarker landscape.


  1. lets primary care providers deliver remarkably efficient remote care, increasing capacity by 30%, efficiency by 80%, and margin by 5x.


  1. CrowdStreet is a crowdfunding platform connecting accredited investors with high quality, professionally managed investment real estate.


  1. Homeschool creates the most durable highly breathable outerwear available keeping you warm and dry from the inside out.


  1. PoachedJobs is a hiring platform disrupting the jobs market for industries with high turnover rates – starting with the restaurant industry.


In alphabetical order, the concept stage finalists are:

  1. Bird Dog Bioventures is a veterinary/human biology start-up, researching and licensing underserved areas of animal health.


  1. Cairn introduces outdoor enthusiasts to new brands and products through a monthly subscription while also collecting market data for the companies they work with.


  1. Free Range Equipment manufactures light, durable, simple, functional backpacks for the performance focused athlete.


  1. KidRunner is reinventing running and exploring with kids hands and arms free, featuring performance, safety, and beauty.


  1. Volcano Veggies LLC grows organic vegetables and fish indoors with proprietary biotechnology solutions, providing cold-weather communities with fresh, nutritious local food year-round.

 This is the fifth year EDCO has managed BVC. Learn more about EDCO at and register for the Bend Venture Conference at

 About Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO)
Founded in 1981, EDCO is a non-profit corporation, supported by private and public members and stakeholders, whose mission is to create middle-class jobs in Central Oregon by recruiting new employers to move to the region, helping entrepreneurs start new, scalable businesses, and working with our businesses that are already here to grow their operations.


About Craft 3
Craft3 is a nonprofit community development financial institution with a mission to strengthen economic, ecological and family resilience in Pacific Northwest communities. We do this by providing loans to entrepreneurs, nonprofits, individuals and others who don’t normally have access to financing. We then complement these financial resources with our expertise, networks and other advocacy for our clients. Over the past 20 years, Craft3 has invested more than $284 million in over 4,158 people and businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more at and



The next frontier: unmanned aerial vehicles

If you imagine the horse and buggy era, the only thing that comes to mind is hitch your horse and go — no required training, rules or technology. Now, fast forward to the automobile era. Freeways, traffic signals, licensing, navigation aids — everything is technological.

Next up on the frontier: unmanned aircraft vehicles.

SOAR Oregon has pushed towards the fast-track evolution of the unmanned aircraft systems and unmanned aerial vehicle industry in Oregon. The nonprofit works across the state to create economic development in aerial robotics.

“We are trying to jump from a horse and buggy era to today’s automobile era,” said Mark Morrisson, executive director of SOAR Oregon. “From Henry Ford and building the roads and interstate highways, which took four to five decades. We are going to do the evolution, which took decades, in just one decade. That’s what is so exciting about the UAV/UAS industry and SOAR Oregon.”

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Bend start-up gets $3.6M to drive compressed natural gas work

Goal Is to Make the Vehicle Itself the CNG Compressor

Bend, Ore.-based Onboard Dynamics has received federal and local funding for a $3.6 million effort to commercialize an elegant concept: using the engine on a natural gas vehicle to compress the gas needed to run the vehicle.

The CNG-gasoline engine in the truck would be able to compress its own natural gas fuel, and perhaps provide it to other NGVs as well, says Onboard Dynamics.
The CNG-gasoline engine in the truck would be able to compress its own natural gas fuel, and perhaps provide it to other NGVs as well, says Onboard Dynamics.

The idea is for the engine to run on some of its cylinders while the others are used to compress the fuel. In that way fuel can be drawn from low-pressure lines, with no need for a costly compressed natural gas fueling station.

“You’ve eliminated the infrastructure problem,” says Onboard co-founder and engineering VP Jeff Witwer. Onboard’s proof-of-concept vehicle had a 5.9-liter Cummins engine converted to spark-ignition, with one its six cylinders used as a compressor.

Four Out of Eight Next

“The next version will be four cylinders of an eight cylinder engine,” Witwer says. The choice of a Chrysler, Ford or GM platform for Onboard’s next phase is to be made in the coming weeks.

The ‘dual-mode’ cylinders would revert to normal spark operation when fuel compression is completed.
The ‘dual-mode’ cylinders would revert to normal spark operation when fuel compression is completed.
Onboard has been awarded $2.88 million through the U.S. DoE’s ARPA-E/Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy initiative, says company co-founder and CEO Rita Hansen. The required cost-share for the $3.6 million total, she says, came from a combination of private investors and Oregon backers. They include Oregon BEST (the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center) and ONAMI, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.

The new money will enable an 18-month commercialization effort.

Onboard says that outfitting a natural gas vehicle to be able to fuel itself from low-pressure lines will be economical. “We’re pretty sure it would add less than $1,000 to the cost of a CNG vehicle,” Witwer says. A modern engine has something on the order of 4,000 parts, he explains. Onboard would change only about 100 of them.

‘Enabling the Compressor That’s Already in Your Engine’

“We’re taking a mass-produced compressor and re-programming it,” Witwer told F&F. “We’re enabling the compressor that’s already in your engine.”

The modified cylinders would be “bi-modal,” he says. They would revert to their normal spark-ignition function when it was time for the vehicle to be on its way.

Dr. Chris Hagen’s team at OSU-Cascades
Dr. Chris Hagen’s team at OSU-Cascades
Onboard has thus far worked with CNG-gasoline bi-fuel vehicles and will do so for its next phase. Hansen and Witwer concur that potential fleet customers prefer the bi-fuel approach.

Onboard Dynamics’ third co-founder is Chris Hagen, an assistant professor at Oregon State University’s Cascades Campus in Bend. He and his students developed a working prototype of the in-engine compression technology, having been helped, according to Oregon BEST, by an ARPA-E investment of $1 million in 2012.

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