Well, there are some differences as Bend has been hit hard by the recession! REALLY HARD! The unemployment is around 15 percent here. I also work for the hospitality industry here in Bend, the hotel end of it. There have been many layoffs as the tourism market took a huge hit here. There have been many hiring freezes as well within the corporate chains. If you are ok with a waiting/serving job then you will have no trouble finding something like that in Bend as there are a lot of nice, even high-end restaurants.
As far as buying a home here, there has never been a better time as real estate prices are very low and remain low. There was a HUGE bubble here and it went BUST back about two years ago. Also and lastly it is way colder here than in Bellingham, as Bellingham does not average below freezing anytime of the year. Bend on the other hand will be below freezing at least 7 to 8 months out of the year with lots of snow. It has even snowed here several times in June since living here for only 12 years. The growing season is only about 65 days between hard freezes. We average 3,600 to 4,200 feet elevation in Bend, so that gives you a good idea.
After all of that is said, I love it here!! It is simply one of the most beautiful places to live. I love the cold and the long winters and snow. I also like the dry warm summers, although very short ones. The people are friendly in general, there are a LOT of transplants so there seems to be a lot of different attitudes that you typically wouldnt associate with a town of 85,000 people. Everyone is from somewhere else!!
Good luck, I wish I had more info on Bellingham, I have been there a few times, but not enough to know the real "Bellingham" per say. OHH and outdoors, you can beat Bend, well once again if you like cold weather outdoors. Bend has world-class skiing and snowboarding, also some of the best cross-country skiing in North America. In the summer you have the amazing Deschutes River right through the middle of town, perfect for floating in July and August. Amazing hiking/biking, tons of professional bikers in town. You just have to go east for less snow in the winter months. Just dont buy into the hype of 300 days of year of sunshine and clear weather, bc its not even close to being true. More like 200 sunny days. If you stay clear of that "idea" you will be fine as in not expecting this all of the time like a lot of people were and come to find out otherwise!
Good Luck and maybe come to Bend to see for yourself!!