Port Nears Deal on SEED Support Services

By Rachel Pritchett



The Port of Bremerton is getting close to finalizing a $100,000 pact to offer support services to the clean-tech startup companies it hopes to attract.

Negotiations are in the later stages between the port and Spokane-based Sirti, formerly the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute.

Sirti, an economic-development agency active in the Inland Northwest, could be offering services here by summer, according to Tim Thomson, the port’s acting chief executive officer. Those services include business coaching, access to capital and legal services, to name a few.

The agreement is one of several components of the port’s Kitsap Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) program that are going forward, despite opposition from one of the three port commissioners, Larry Stokes. SEED is an effort to diversify the local economy, grow clean-tech companies and provide good-wage jobs. 

Not all has been settled in negotiations with Sirti.

Its director, Kim Zentz, said Sirti is insisting that a local person be hired to implement Sirti services, and that the port not ask Sirti to ship a member of its tiny staff here. “We’re frankly still discussing how this would all work,” Zentz said.

Also happening in the SEED initiative:

Incubator building: A new project manager has started looking for ways to make the estimated $7 million building at least a couple million dollars cheaper. But Thomson said it will be difficult to maintain the integrity of the building without more funds.

A portion of another new port building constructed for SEED-type companies is standing empty. It could be used for an incubator or for a Sirti office if the incubator is not built, Thomson said.

Nonprofit: A nonprofit board to oversee the incubator or to take on other SEED roles is still forming. Small-business counselor Rand Riedrich and environmental lawyer Jon Kroman are already members, while Bill Stewart of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance has left. Port leaders will meet Wednesday with two potential board members, Navy contractor AnnaLee Todd and finance expert William Lemon.

Access road: Construction could start this summer on a small road that would connect the proposed SEED campus to rest of the port. The state-funded project is expected to cost $1.5 million.

The proposed SEED project, in the making for five years, has deeply divided the commission. But outside of Stokes, two of the three commissioners seem to be leaning toward it. Bill Mahan is by far its strongest proponent. Cheryl Kincer appears to lean in support.

Mahan believes the port has answered community concerns about SEED and the project should now go forward.

While a vote among commissioners is not necessary to move the project forward, Mahan believes it would set a clear direction.

“I think it would be a way of getting off the dime and clearing the air, and letting people know what the port’s going to do,” he said.

Stokes wants a public vote on the project and believes most of his constituents would turn it down as unaffordable and unworkable.

He objects to plans for a business incubator when the port has a major new building standing empty.

“OK, now they want to build another building?” he asked.

Stokes also fears that any additional bonding could affect taxpayers just in the Port of Bremerton but nowhere else in Kitsap.

“But I’m losing,” he said.

One thought on “Port Nears Deal on SEED Support Services

  1. According the SIRTI’s founding legislation (RCW 28B.38) the agency was founded to provide economic development to Eastern Washington, expressly.

    Here is an excerpt of the legislative findings and intent as written in RCW: “…the legislature finds that the Spokane intercollegiate research and technology institute is a vital and necessary element in the academic and economic future of eastern Washington. The legislature also finds that it is in the interest of the state of Washington to support and promote applied research and technology in areas of the state that, because of geographic or historic circumstances, have not developed fully balanced economies. It is the intent of the legislature that institutions of higher education and the department of community, trade, and economic development work cooperatively with the private sector in the development and implementation of a technology transfer and integration program to promote the economic development and enhance the quality of life in eastern Washington.”

    Even if it is legal for SIRTI to enter into a deal with the Port of Bremerton (which I question), it is outside the intent under which that agency was formed. This type of “mission-creep” is a big reason why our state agencies are in such financial difficulties, why core responsibilities are neglected, and why the public is ever more cynical of public agencies: SIRTI was formed to provide economic development to eastern Washington. In just a few years, they are expending resources in Bremerton. Pathetic.

    It is no surprise the Port of Bremerton is involved in such a scheme.

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