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Why Bend, Ore., Is the Next Big City for Entrepreneurship Bend, Ore., offers serious benefits to small businesses and entrepreneurs, including growth rate, investment, government perks and lifestyle balance.

By Bruce Schoenfeld

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Not so long ago, what is now the most entrepreneurial city in America was nearly a ghost town. The timber industry had crashed, and it was the only industry that Bend, Ore., had. "Two of the biggest pine mills in the world, and one had closed and one was about to close," Dan Smithey says of the first time he saw Bend, in 1979, when the population was less than 20,000.

Smithey is sitting in the conference room of Agere Pharmaceuticals, a $4 million manufacturer of materials for clinical trials that he co-founded in 2007. "But it was a beautiful place," he says. "Sunny days, crisp nights. It's the kind of place people come to just because they want to be there. And now there's a network of talented people who've done exactly that."

These days, Bend's population is nudging 80,000. There are still rolling hills and mountain vistas, but they share space with a business community that might be the most eclectic -- and fastest-growing -- of any similarly sized city in America.

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