Businesses hear track pitch

The presence of a Kitsap County NASCAR track would mean profound changes the local business environment, and it is up to the community to determine the specifics of these potential benefits, officials say.

“When NASCAR came to our community, it did a number of positive things,” said Kansas City (Kansas) Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Cash, at a Wednesday gathering in Silverdale. “It became a catalyst for development in our community and generated new retail businesses that had been destroyed by the construction of a large shopping center.”

Cash participated in a panel discussion sponsored by three local Chambers of Commerce to examine the potential impact of a racetrack on regional business.

She said several local vendors who opened businesses at the racetrack were so successful they were able to expand into downtown, revitalizing a moribund area.

“You need to have the right people at the table when decisions are being made,” Cash said. “And you need to find out the ideas that work for you. A racetrack can act as a catalyst for your community’s business development.”

The meeting, part of a short speaking tour, stimulated discussion about the track’s potential effect on commerce.

Kitsap Economic Development Council Executive Director David Porter is taking the long view. He admits the creation of just 100 full-time jobs on 1,000 acres of land represents a “loss leader” situation, but that the track will create a “national buzz that will jumpstart local business development, allowing us to accomplish in 15 years what it would take 30 under other circumstances. It will stimulate serious job development over the next two generations.”

Kitsap’s channeling of NASCAR-generated industry has yet to be determined and should be decided through community meetings, according to Leader International President Rick Flaherty.

An enthusiastic racetrack supporter, Flaherty feels it can generate several automotive-based businesses to service the specific needs of race-car drivers.

Once established, these businesses can continue to sell to the general public.

Flaherty said the South Kitsap area’s hospitality business is weak, and the racetrack would stimulate construction of quality lodging and restaurants.

As a result, tourism will become more of a year-round business.

Flaherty feels that community events, from football games to flea markets, could turn the racetrack into an all-purpose facility.

“The only thing that will stop us here is the inability to think outside of the box,” he said. “We need to open up our imaginations. We can do a multitude of things with this.”

Large concerts, however, are not part of the plan. ISC spokesman Stann Tate said entertainment is sometimes offered during a race, but all-day concerts are not planned.

Like most other aspects of the track, observers must assume a wait-and-see attitude.

“I’d like to see more high-wage jobs in the county,” said Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel. “Tourism provides a lot of jobs, but we will need some other kinds of positions, in fields like engineering and research. We need to provide more local jobs so people don’t have to ride the ferry to get to work. The more time people spend in the community, the stronger it will be.”

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