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Port takes bigger view of industrial park

"The Port of Bremerton Commissioners aren't sure how to pull Olympic View Industrial Park's blurry future into focus, but they are working nevertheless on ideas to strengthen the anemic park.There's a lack of focus on what the market for the park actually is, and we need to identify that market, Commissioner Bill Mahan said. The market isn't necessarily what we want it to be. Obviously, Mahan added, we need as many hooks as possible to lure in business, but a comprehensive strategy must be formulated first. To that end, the commissioners plan a two-day study tour of the ports of Grays Harbor, Longview, Kalama and Olympia Feb. 17-18. The plan is to see how comparable ports launched economically-sound projects by teaming up with other government agencies.The commissioners have talked about what we've been doing at the industrial park and what we could do take make it better, Mahan said. I suggested we take a trip to the Port of Olympia. I was down there last summer, and the industrial park-developed by Weyerhauser-offers wonderful recreational opportunities, homes, a business park and a site for a school. We need to start thinking about what a business employing 30 to 50 people looks for in an ideal site.The other commissioners suggested other ports for the tour, as well.This is the first time we've done anything like this, said Commissioner Mary Ann Huntington. The study tour will culminate in a visit to the Capitol. The commissioners, along with the Kitsap County Commissioners and members of the Economic Development Council of Kitsap County, plan to meet with local state legislators.No one can be sure what's in store for Olympic View Industrial Park, but Huntington, for one, has a vision: Accommodate more white-collar or smaller businesses in the future, rather than industrial and manufacturing businesses.A sore spot among the commissioners is the use of park space for storage. Discussions on how to attract more active businesses to balance apparent inactivity are prevalent.According to port records, 25 tenants lease space at the park, and about one-third are in the transfer and storage business. To counter that, small business clusters could be constructed, such as in Kent, Huntington said.Kent has a beautiful business park, Huntington said. During a visit there, she discovered small, well-kept buildings containing a mish-mash of small startup businesses. She thought, Why not at Olympic? After all, the port has some 480 leasable acres to work with. And a white-collar-oriented market plan isn't too far-fetched, considering the commissioners decided in December against completely tapping into a $850,000 federal Economic Development Administration grant. The grant was designated to fund construction on a $2.3 million incubator facility that would have housed fledgling industrial and manufacturing-style businesses. But lack of interest among prospective users halted the project mid-stream, although the initial stage of the project-a new road and utilities at the park--was completed.In addition to trendier businesses, Huntington sees a niche for recreational purposes at the park.There are no RV parks in all of Kitsap County, she said. We have the perfect location for that-not on the old Norseland (Mobile Home Park) site, but an RV park will fit in well with this area.Huntington said there are lessons to be learned from the Port of Kalama. While driving to Portland, Ore., she stopped in Kalama to buy gas at a card-operated pump owned by the port. Also on the site was a bathroom, she said, and neither required on-site supervision.Huntington suggests installing a similar station outside the park along State Route 3 and, perhaps, a convenience store.In the meantime, the commissioners plan to bone up on successful ports, take notes and play up Olympic View's assets.The park is in a great location with a magnificent view of the Olympics, and then there's the (Bremerton National) airport and the highway, Mahan said."

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