Whatcha Doing, Candidate? Tony DeBone sees Bend as a brand ambassador for county’s entrepreneurial climate

By Erin Rook, Source Weekly

With a background in high-tech industries, Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone thinks of himself as the “tech guy commissioner.” To that end, he hopes to use his experience and connections to bring technology jobs of all sorts to the county—bio tech, high tech renewables, large-scale manufacturing, you name it. When he’s not busy with his work as a commissioner, DeBone helps his wife run the family tech support business, Little d Tech.

Source Weekly: Is there one issue you’re most passionate about?

Tony DeBone: I kinda see it as three main points: jobs and the economy, the fiscal responsibility of running this level of government, and then our central Oregon lifestyle…

I always think of Bend as the brand…when you think of Bend as the active brand, that people know nationally, Redmond is really right there also. Industrial lands in Redmond are available; for the larger employers it’s gonna be great opportunities in Redmond…. [Also] bio technology, bio mass, forest products still, instead of just cutting down big trees and making lumber, what do we do with all the other forest products, the energy that’s released? I’m passionate about energy, in fact. Think about the carbon cycle of wood and wood products biomass—instead of taking ancient oil out of the ground and making gasoline and diesel and burning it for the atmosphere, it takes about 100 years to create biomass. I just think there are opportunities there… Think like an entrepreneur, let’s try the next thing. When I say economic development, that’s what I think of, all these opportunities…

Economy and jobs is the thing that, as commissioners, we can probably help influence. [For example] the Bend Venture Conference in October, talk about an exciting event. Angel investors and an investor pool, I think we’re on our 11th year at the Tower Theatre. Five-hundred people show up and it sells out and I think that is very exciting. As commissioners, we’ve supported that. We’ve been able to donate some economic development dollars to those strategic initiatives that really make Central Oregon a welcoming and inviting place for entrepreneurs and businesses.

SW: What would you say you’re doing right now that influences job growth and the economy?

TD: I’m on the EDCO executive committee… We’ve given $20,000 to Sisters in cooperation with the city council. We’ve also given $20,000 to La Pine in coordination with their city council—matching dollars, to have a part-time economic development manager there, and that’s very much since I’ve been in office that we’ve gotten to that point, that wasn’t there before.

Another real tangible thing that’s happened since I’ve been in office is regional economic opportunity analysis. Again, it’s tri-county, but it’s large lot industrial zoning, so that’s very tangible. [It’s the] government setting up zoning to allow large lot industrial. We took a tri-county area and worked with state land use, because in Oregon you can’t just say I’m going to take 200 acres on the side of my city and make it industrial. We defined a regional economic opportunity analysis that says 200 and 100 acre parcels are some of the best opportunities we have for a lot of job growth… It looks like Redmond is going to take the largest one in central Oregon—200 acres industrial is not available anywhere else in the state. A lot of people have 10, 20 and maybe 50 and 80 acre-sized parcels but not 200, and what 200 means, think about how exciting this could be…Tesla down in California, they’re looking for the next battery manufacturing place. When you’re taking about something that big, a lot of things need to align, a lot of stars need to align, but oh boy, what if we qualified for it? …Tesla is sort of a pipe dream, but that’s the scale we’re thinking of.