In reading a book titled The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson (it's about a cholera outbreak in mid-19th Century London and how its cause was discovered) I came across two passages that brilliantly explain why the fantasy of Bend becoming a vibrant, economically dynamic and diverse urban center is just that -- a fantasy.
"The power of telecommuting and instant connectivity was going to make the idea of densely packed urban cores as obsolete as the walled cities of the Middle Ages. Why would people crowd themselves into harsh, overpopulated environments when they could just as easily work from their homestead on the range? But as it turns out, many people actually like the density of urban environments, precisely because they offer ... diversity."
And later on, this:
"There's a reason why the world's wealthiest people -- people with near-infinite options vis-a-vis the choice of where to make their home -- consistently choose to live in the densest areas on the planet. Ultimately, they live in these places ... because cities are where the action is. Cities are centers of opportunity, tolerance, wealth creation, social networking, health ... and creativity."
Yes, Bend will continue to attract people who are devoted to the "outdoor lifestyle" to the point of obsession. But such people are a pretty small minority and they tend not to be the type of people who are driven to found mighty business enterprises. True, some of them will found small companies that employ themselves and maybe, at most, a dozen other people. But they won't create big job-generating businesses (think Intel, Apple or Dell) because in the first place they're not motivated that way, and in the second place doing that would prevent them from taking a day off every time there's fresh powder on the mountain or a week off every time they want to go catch some steelhead.
Also, Bend lacks the critical mass that makes places like New York, Los Angeles or Silicon Valley -- or, during the Renaissance, Florence -- centers of creative energy and intellectual ferment. Energetic, ambitious and creative people tend to flock together. They seek out the opportunity to exchange ideas with others of their kind. They like the exciting vibe of a city. As Johnson says, they like to be where the action is.
Bend is a former timber town in an isolated rural area that managed to transform itself, more or less successfully, into a tourist town. That's all it's ever been since the mills closed, and all it's ever going to be. And the sooner Bendites face up to that the better off they'll be.