Could Port Become Navy-Contractor Campus?

By Rachel Pritchett
For the moment, don’t call it economic development. Call it a move.
General Dynamics Electric Boat has finished conversion work on two submarines at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, so the office space it had there no longer was available.
So it’s moving its offices to the Port of Bremerton’s Olympic View Industrial Park near Bremerton National Airport, where it also will lease warehouse space.
That will be the new home base for Electric Boat’s 50 to 70 local civilian employees, though some will still report to the shipyard for work.
“We’d still be working out of the shipyard, primarily,” said Bob Hamilton, spokesman for the Groton, Conn.-based contractor.
How long it stays at the port — and whether it will ever add any new jobs to local economy — depends on the robustness of its Navy contracts.
“It is entirely tied to what they want us to do,” Hamilton said.
Shipyard workload projections appear strong.
Shipyard spokeswoman Mary Anne Mascianica called its workload in 2010 and beyond “full to bursting.” And speakers at a Kitsap Economic Development Alliance symposium this past summer also predicted a strong U.S. Department of Defense workload in the coming few years.
It’s what Electric Boat’s move could mean in the future that excites local economic-development leaders.
Electric Boat joins government contractor Safe Boats International at the port, and together they might form a critical mass that would allow the port to market itself as an emerging Navy-contractor campus, according to Bill Stewart, KEDA executive director.
“In the case of the port, they’re developing a good cadre of tenants that can attract more,” he said.
Port Commissioner Bill Mahan agreed, saying local Navy contractors now are spread throughout the area.
“One of the things that creates a synergy is when like-minded companies are located in the same general area,” he said. “I think it’s kind of like the anchor store in a shopping mall that will allow us to really market that area as a defense-oriented group of businesses.”
Port Commissioner Cheryl Kincer has long argued for a contractor campus.
“I would like to see Electric Boat being the catalyst for a lot of different contractors, vendors and customers of the military,” she said.
That would be an abrupt about-face for the port, which in the past tried to become a clean-tech center with its Sustainable Energy and Economic Development plan. The port abandoned SEED earlier this year for lack of support and money.
Port leaders had also said they were working for economic diversity away from military dependence, but a contractor campus wouldn’t accomplish that.
Port leaders are just glad for their new major tenant, even if it’s just for office and warehouse space, and not manufacturing and research and development, as they perhaps had initially hoped for.
“I’m just happy that our team was successful in securing this world-class company,” said port Chief Executive Officer Cary Bozeman.

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