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Port Orchard anxious for SEED to bloom

Just days after Gov. Christine Gregoire met with Port of Bremerton officials to praise their clean-energy initiative Sustainable Energy Economic Development (SEED), port officials met to discuss ways to keep the project on the cutting edge.

“We are in first place right now, and we need to keep going to make sure we stay there,” said Commissioner Bill Mahan. “We’ve got the lead and we can’t afford to lose it.”

Mahan said he was encouraged by Gregoire’s aligning the project — a 75-acre, alternative-energy-focused business park to be built in the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) — with the state’s Innovation Zone Grant program, which, if awarded, would infuse $1 million into SEED.

However, Mahan also pointed out that SEED so far has collected $5.5 million in federal, state and county dollars but has yet to create any tangible evidence that it is moving from idea to reality.

“We are being praised for our great vision, but the problem is people keep asking ‘Where’s the tenants? Where’s the building?’” Mahan said at the port’s board of commissioners’ meeting May 22. “People are wondering ‘is it still a vision, or is it real?’”

Mahan said he wanted the port to be more aggressive in attracting and retaining tenant businesses, pointing to a list of action items suggested by Tom Luce — a lobbyist the port hired earlier this year to act as a “governmental affairs consultant,” said Chief Executive Officer Ken Attebery.

Mahan suggested “getting the list out right now” to discuss it, but since SEED Director Tim Botkin had to leave for an appointment, the board agreed to table the discussion and reconvene Thursday evening.

By Thursday, Attebery had updated Luce’s list with a suggested action that port staff can take to achieve each of the items, which include approaching private developers that might be willing to partner with the port to build sections of SEED; partnering with the successful business incubator William Factory of Tacoma; and developing both a financing plan for construction of the first building and a list — to remain confidential — of companies considering moving into SEED.

Everyone present — which included all three commissioners — seemed to agree that Luce’s list would take them in the right direction, and the board and the staff members agreed that the port’s overarching goal is to have a building under construction by December.

“If we are not under construction by December, I will need to question whether I should remain with this project,” Botkin said, explaining that to “guarantee” the port met that goal, it would need to secure $2 million more in funding in the next four months.

Botkin also suggested to the board that he be allowed to seriously consider partnering with fuel-cell company Synergy Technlogies, although previous negotiations had dissolved.

“I received a letter of intent from them the day of the governor’s visit that is ‘very intriguing,’” Botkin said, requesting the port’s permission to proceed.

“I think we need to take a chance on anybody,” said Commissioner Mary Ann Huntington. Mahan and Commissioner Cheryl Kincer concurred, and Botkin said he would pursue the matter and update them on the progress.

• Also at Tuesday’s business meeting, the board approved a resolution awarding the contract to design and engineer Pod 1, the first SEED building, to Mithun, Inc.

Attebery said the contract does not include a dollar amount yet, explaining that the design on the building is being largely funded by a Economic Adjustment Grant from the Economic Development Administration, and the process with such grants is to pick a contractor first.

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