Message from the CEO 2021

by Jim Rothlin

Date: Apr 29, 2021

The Port of Bremerton, like the rest of the world, experienced a year like no other. 2020 brought issues that the Port was not necessarily prepared for, but somehow found a way to strive and succeed. From shutdowns to work from home policies to social distancing, and so on, we were moving into a territory where every day brought on new challenges unique to any other challenges and trying to forecast the economic effects were almost impossible to predict. Not only the economy, but staff struggled both professionally and personally to all the unforeseen challenges that each of us had to endure in our own individual way. The credit of the Port’s success this year really goes to employees who unified as a team together in these volatile moments.

The Port was able to react in ways necessary to handle the ups and downs of the business. The downside started with the inability to service its customers due to state and federal mandates requiring the Port to close most of the access to the public, the lost rent revenues from businesses who were struggling, and the highly anticipated activities being cancelled at the Marinas. The facilities crew at the Port did everything they could to keep the amenities at the Port maintained and operable. On the positive side, because the Port had positioned itself with shovel ready infrastructure, it was able to jump at opportunities that presented themselves as the economy adjusted from the effects of the COVID pandemic. With new tenants, a growth in jobs, new public and private partnerships, airport upgrades, new buildings, marina upgrades, and full marinas, the Port of Bremerton managed to continue to help grow the local economy and provide family wage jobs to the community.

Despite the pandemic, business growth and expansion at the Industrial Park continued at the Port with five new businesses who signed leases. These new tenants and other tenant expansions have increased the total jobs employed by Port tenants to 2,516. A record high for Bremerton and an increase of 255% over the last five years. In 2020 the Port completed a 20-year master plan that allows for flexibility depending on the market conditions in the area. This plan looks at three different industries for the Port to choose from depending on the future trends of the local economy: new manufacturing, sustainable and green industries, and the advance of transportation technology.

The Port’s mission to grow and continue to help the community led to its 13-acre highway frontage development which gives direct highway visibility for companies that benefit from that type of exposure. The construction of two new buildings at the Port’s industrial and business park commenced in 2020. A 17,433 square foot building is a flexible space which was immediately rented out to the county’s Department of Emergency Management to store much needed emergency and medical supplies for the pandemic. The second building is 5,300 square feet and is scheduled for completion in March of 2021. This building will be occupied in April by a boat manufacturer who is planning to create a showroom and a finishing facility for its product.

Negotiations are taking place with a private developer on a 50,000 square foot and a 70,000 square foot building for existing tenants who are looking to expand their business within the Olympic View Industrial and Business Park. The Port is also completing the infrastructure for a current tenant looking to construct a 60,000 square foot building expansion. Stormwater, landscaping, and sewer connections with Amazon have also been completed and all existing buildings are at 100% occupancy.

One of the Port’s newer tenants, Circuit of the Northwest, is in the phase of final design to build a community event center for concerts and festivals, STEM center for continued education, an Emergency Vehicle training center for first responders and law enforcement, a road course which will have the capabilities for automobile and motorcycle racing, autonomous vehicle testing, and a go kart track. This new campus will greatly benefit the community through education, family wage jobs, and entertainment.

Bremerton National Airport also was expanded and upgraded. Phase 1 infrastructure for new hangars at the airport was completed which will allow for three new private corporate hangars to be built in 2021. Infrastructure for box hangars and/or T-hangars is scheduled for Phase 2 of this project to help meet the demand for hangar space. Additionally, the airport was given a $2.2 million grant by the FAA and a $120,000 grant by WSDOT to upgrade runway, taxiway, and signage lighting and install a new electrical control system and backup generator for the lighting. The new automated LED system will be more energy-efficient, brighter, clearer, and have improved intensity levels, benefitting the pilots through better visibility and safety.

Plans for a redesigned and remodeled multipurpose building with a restaurant, pilot lounge, and hangar space were approved by the FAA, which allows the Port to continue to serve pilots and the community at this location. Construction is scheduled to commence in Q2 of 2021.

Design and engineering work was completed in 2020 for development of a 21-acre site. Sky Park is located on the North end of the runway and is slated for a combination of 30,000 to 60,000 square foot facilities. This site will allow for runway access and is ideal for new aeronautical industries looking to relocate to the Kitsap Peninsula. Construction for the pad ready sites can start as early as 2022.

The Port has been proactively marketing its two marinas in Port Orchard and Bremerton. Due to the issues with COVID, boat shows went to a virtual only format, significantly limiting its marketing capabilities. However, boating being allowed as an activity during the COVID stay-athome requirements significantly increased the use of boats on the water. Both marinas held strong at full capacity in its long-term moorage. Its state-of-the-art marina facilities are attracting boaters from all over the country. For the first time, the revenues from the operations of the marinas were able to exceed operating expenses. These efficiencies were achieved while still upholding its exceptional customer service and well-maintained marina.

At the Bremerton Marina is an exciting new project planned for Bremerton’s waterfront. Construction of Marina Square began in 2020 and includes a new hotel, restaurant/bar, apartments, and subterranean parking. The Port owned this waterfront property and previously used it as parking for marina tenants and the public. This new development will lead to a great community benefit by bringing jobs, housing, and significant economic benefits to the area, as well as increase parking capacity for marina tenants and the city of Bremerton.

Plans for a new breakwater began at the Port Orchard Marina. The breakwater benefits the public and community by protecting the marina and its 471 boat slips, providing a place to walk on the water, places to gather and recreate, and a space for more boaters to come in and spend time at the Port Orchard waterfront. The marina business brings in more than $10 million in revenue to Port Orchard and Kitsap County every year which makes replacing the breakwater a vital investment. Additionally, a new activity shelter was constructed to be used for boater rendezvous, events, weddings, and other activities requiring a place for small gatherings near the waterfront.

Pre-Covid, the Port of Bremerton marinas participated in more than 55 events each year and is looking forward to participating in these events again as soon as possible. Until then, many event organizers found ways to connect with the local communities using drive-through famers markets, virtual movies & concerts, online car and boat shows, independent scavenger hunts with social media, and limited socially distanced gatherings in phased approaches to accommodate the public health. In 2021 the Port expects to have increased activities available for visiting boaters during the summer months.

During winter, the Port coordinated with the local community and yacht clubs to take every effort to light up the winter months with an exuberant display of holiday lights along the waterfront. Every tenant was encouraged to participate with bright lights on their boats and incentivized to keep them lit long into January. The visual joy expressed through the festive lighting efforts were a much-needed bright spot in the dark winter months.

Administratively, the Port continues to focus on operational efficiencies and improved customer service. The ability to administer to aeronautical, marine, and industrial business sectors in a timely and user-friendly fashion as well as remain in compliance with all city, state and federal regulations requires efficient infrastructure and creative personnel. The Port’s culture is driven by accountability from all employees, and that they be proactive in finding new ways to better serve our tenants and our community.

Within these investments mentioned above, lies several underlying components which continues to be the backbone of the Commissioners’ direction for 2021;

  • To be responsible with taxpayer investment
  • To continue the vision of job growth and quality of life to the community
  • To create a professional looking industrial park, marina, and airport
  • To be the leader in industrial economic development
  • To accommodate needs of current tenants
  • To be better prepared for future tenants

With this budget plan for 2021 and the current workforce and leadership at the Port of Bremerton, I believe we are positioned to accomplish those goals and I am very excited for the years to come.

Jim Rothlin

Chief Executive Officer


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