Port briefs Murray on SEED project

During her daylong visit to South Kitsap, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, (D-Wash), stopped at the Port of Bremerton offices on Thursday to get an update on its Sustainable Energy Economic Development (SEED) project.

First, Murray listened to a presentation by port Chief Executive Officer Ken Attebery, who gave an overview of the plan to build a clean technology business park by answering some of the questions he most frequently encounters.

As for what exactly SEED is, Attebery described it as as a “philosophy of economic development” that could provide family-wage jobs while focusing on green, low-impact construction and technology.

By 2030, the port estimates SEED will have brought 9,300 jobs to the county, which Attebery said is equivalent to “taking a shipyard and plunking it here in the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA).”

As for overall economic benefits, Attebery said SEED will have up to six times the benefits that “big-box retail” would have in the area, explaining that big-box retailers do not directly improve a local economy.

“Big-box retailers are an effect of economic development, not an economic development in and of itself,” he said.

To the question “Why Kitsap?,” Attebery said, “Why not? Why can’t we be the little economic engine that could?”

Following the presentation, Murray asked if any of the SEED buildings were currently under construction, and where the port had received its funding.

Attebery explained that while the design work was completed for Pod 1, the first buildings, no construction had begun.

Describing the funding the port had received so far, Commissioner Bill Mahan said the federal Economic Development Administration contributed a $450,000 grant for design work, while the state Legislature allocated $1.8 million for design and construction.

“Do you have any investments from private parties?” Murrary asked, to which Attebery said no, but added that it was typical for such projects to be started with public money, then the “private investments come over time.”

“I think it is very important that you understand that the port has invested, to-date, a total of $675,000 of the port’s money — of the taxpayers’ dollars — to this project,” said Commissioner Larry Stokes.

Firmly supporting such a use of tax dollars was resident Fran Moyer, who said that both Kitsap and Mason counties were full of highly-skilled workers who could benefit greatly from the influx of high-paying jobs such a project could bring.

“This side of the water badly needs it,” Moyer said. “I will gladly have my tax dollars paying for such a project because of what it will do for us right here, and not across the water.”

North Kitsap County Commissioner Steve Bauer also praised SEED.

“I have not seen anything catch fire like this across the county,” Bauer said, explaining that the county “needs to find a way to diversify its economy, (and) we are in the process of contributing a significant amount of money to the project.”

Attebery said the port is in the process of applying for a $2.8 million grant from the EDA to fund construction of the first SEED buildings.

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