By Rachel Pritchett
BREMERTON NATIONAL AIRPORT — When the year ends, the two most aggressive and adept promoters of the Port of Bremerton will retire, raising the question of who can fill their big shoes as the port’s next horn-blower.
Commissioner Bill Mahan has been behind a host of economic-development initiatives over the years, most recently encouraging expansion of a marine-industry cluster here. Tuesday at a study session, he predicted that after a two-year effort, a major boat company is coming to Kitsap County. He did not elaborate.
Cary Bozeman, the port’s chief executive officer, just pulled off probably the biggest local public-relations coup to date, deftly inserting the port into the statewide discussion of where any future Boeing 737 plant should go.
Incoming CEO Tim Thomson has been on the port’s inside operational side mostly. He has overseen the port’s industrial-park leasing in recent years. But his activities related to the full-fledged professional promotion of the port have been limited. No one appears to be looking to port spokeswoman Chris Case, hired as marketing and communications manager, to wholly fill this role.
Mahan and Bozeman have clear sights on the potential promotional vacuum that could occur at the port. On Tuesday, Mahan suggested getting some kind of professional commercial real-estate help to begin promoting the port in Seattle.
“The way we do it now is not working,” he said.
Bozeman quickly agreed.
“There needs to be a strong sales outreach here,” he said.
Commissioner Roger Zabinski also agreed on the necessity of finding a way to effectively market the business park across the water and even globally.
“I’m not trying to criticize. I’m trying to move forward,” he said.
Thompson’s marketing efforts so far have included advertising leasing opportunities through onsite signs and packets at trade shows. Bozeman and port commissioner want a more aggressive approach.
Thomas said the lack of prospective tenants can be chalked up to more than a passive marketing effort.
There’s the bad economy. Plus, the problem of leasing the remaining 91 acres in the port’s industrial park is compounded by a round of lease-rate raises that started just before the recession and is being completed this year. Tenants are pushing back on the higher rates, Thomson said.
There’s the problem of lack of infrastructure in the park, and not enough cash to do it after building the Bremerton Marina, acccording to Bozeman. With insufficient infrastructure, the industrial park isn’t as competitive, he said.
Then there’s the name of the park that all seemed to agree does nothing to draw tenants here — Olympic View Business and Industrial Parks.
As for promoting the port better now that two of its biggest horn-blowers are leaving, Bozeman said he was going to talk to Thomson in the next month.
Thomson seemed to read the message loud and clear — successful promotion means more than signs and informational packets at trade shows.
“I heard from all three commissioners to take action,” he said.