BREMERTON — When people hear the words “Port of Bremerton,” they likely think of the Bremerton marina, and possibly the airport as well.
But the economic footprint the port leaves in this area is massive indeed, and growing larger as efforts to market the Ports of Bremerton and Port Orchard pay serious dividends. The Port is also involved in many economic development initiatives that don’t directly involve either the airport or the marina.
“What we’re doing at the port benefits the entire region,” said Jim Rothlin, the port’s third-year CEO. “It’s nice to see all that we’re doing start to show some results.”
Those efforts can be broken down into six general areas:
— Industrial park. The port currently owns 1,500 acres of raw, shovel-ready land, plus access to another 1,500 acres that are privately owned.
“This is currently our biggest focus,” Rothlin said. “It brings jobs and cash to the region, so this is a critical area for us.”
Much of that land is adjacent to the airport runway — an alluring feature for companies looking for convenient, ready access to transportation options.
— Business recruitment and retention. The Port is constantly reaching out to potential employers across the country who might be persuaded to locate in an area of great natural beauty, ready access to the City of Seattle and Boeing; a skilled, well-educated work force; plus the dozens of aerospace suppliers in this region that exist specifically because of Boeing’s patronage.
— Housing. About a month ago, the Port hosted a half-day forum that included senior members of the real estate industry in the Kitsap Peninsula to hear Lennox Scott, the grandson of the founder of John L. Scott Real Estate and now president and CEO of the family business.
A key point in the discussion was how to create affordable housing for people as more and more move to the Kitsap Peninsula to take advantage of the quality of life and comparatively reasonable housing values (that is, compared to Seattle, where real estate and rental prices have gone stratospheric in the last few years).
— Ports of Bremerton and Port Orchard. Last month, Bremerton hosted the Aviation Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Fly-In, and event that occurs only four times a year at various airports around the country. In an event that lasted a bit more than 24 hours, the 700 pilots who flew in on their own aircraft plus the 4,000 spectators who came out on Aug. 20, infused an estimated $700,000 into the Kitsap economy.
— Entertainment. The Bremerton Marina and Port Orchard marinas are hopping during the summer months. Harborfest, the Blackberry Festival, Fourth of July, Brewfest and Rock the Dock make for a rich choice of entertainment and draw hundreds of people to the waterfront on almost nightly basis. At the Port Orchard Marina, Music on the Waterfront is another big summertime draw.
— The marinas. One big success story at the Port Orchard and Bremerton Marinas has been the growing level of boat tenant retention and recruitment. Port Orchard has been able to keep the marina at very close to full capacity, with additional tenants signing leases every month. A marketing initiative at the Seattle Boat Show directly resulted in 31 new boat tenants signing leases.
Bremerton has had spectacular success in growing its occupancy rate, improving by more than 200 percent during the past three years. Bremerton’s marina currently stands at 84.63 percent occupancy — the highest in the facility’s history, and an important boost to the coffers of both cities.
None of this is a coincidence. A combination of focused marketing efforts and adherence to a well-thought-out economic development strategy is showing a consistent, year-by-year uptick.
“The No. 1 priority of the board is to bring jobs to Bremerton,” said Port Commissioner Cary Bozeman. “We need to upgrade the facility, of course, but we need to have the Industrial Park ready for when a company comes looking for a place to locate, we’ll be ready.”