As we move well into 2018, we have seen many changes since my start as CEO in 2014. Four years ago at the Port, the economic turnaround was just starting to peek its head. The Bremerton Marina was at 40% occupancy and the Port began an aggressive marketing strategy as we saw boat ownership begin to rise. At the Olympic View Industrial Park, businesses were starting to show some interest in properties, as there were many vacant buildings available in the area creating a true buyer’s market. There were significant cost savings in purchasing or leasing an existing building and retrofitting, rather than build new.
Jumping forward, the atmosphere is very different. Currently, the occupancy at the Bremerton and Port Orchard Marinas are over 90%. The Port’s Industrial Park has filled all of its current buildings with tenants. The Industrial Park currently has over 60 tenants and 1,400 jobs it provides for the community. That certainly doesn’t mean our job is done. The Port Commission is looking to be proactive in the Industrial Park by anticipating opportunities instead of waiting to be approached.
There are several projects underway that fit that description. There is site planning happening along Airport Industrial Way, allowing a head start with development plans for businesses requiring direct access to the Bremerton National Airport Taxiway. The Port is just completing renovations for approximately 3,000 square feet of office space. This space is now just two offices short of being filled by interested parties. There is a Port project going out for bid in August to build an 18,000 square foot starter building (for sale or lease) for new or existing businesses. The building is designed to be segregated into smaller sizes to accommodate more than one business if the need arises.
The Port staff and Commissioners are working harder than ever not to just keep up with the growing demand, but to remain at the forefront of real estate and economic development trends. It’s critical that we not wait for the demand to come to us, but to anticipate it so that when the need arises, the Port is ready to provide answers. When it comes to marketing the benefits of Kitsap County to potential new business, we can say a lot of great things as to why Kitsap is the place to be for development. Quality of life, available land, a skilled workforce, rail access and educational training are just a few of the many amenities Kitsap can boast about. However, in an economy where competition for businesses with good paying wage jobs is vibrant and all eyes are on the I-5 corridor, it is critical that we can offer something beyond the norm. Typically that has to do with being flexible, available, and timely with a company’s needs. Staying ahead of progress will hopefully create an advantage when marketing to businesses that are favorable to our industry and our community.