PO Tourism Committee Morphs Toward Economic Development

April 22: Oops sorry, wrong poll .The wrong poll was displayed with this post since yesterday. The correct poll is up now. CTH

The time has come, members of Port Orchard City Council’s tourism committee said Tuesday, for the committee to expand its duties to include economic development.

To date, the committee has focused mainly on working with the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce, nonprofits and local businesses on special events that draw visitors, such as the city’s Chimes and Lights Festival, the Seagull Calling Contest and last summer’s Cedar Cove Days.

Paying more attention to economic development would be a natural progression, said committee chairman Jerry Childs. Committee members, including Childs, Jim Colebank and Fred Chang, have been looking at cities like Poulsbo and Leavenworth as models.

Childs said the committee would coordinate with Mayor Lary Coppola, who so far has been the city’s designee and spokesman in attempts to attract new business. Coppola has already hosted some focus groups with selected business owners.

One of the committee’s ideas is to host an economic development page on the city’s Web site with information on permitting and other resources related to economic development. The Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce has a resource page for prospective and current businesses, but, said Chang, it’s not the committee’s intention to reinvent the wheel.

“I don’t think we intend to duplicate anything that’s already being done,” said Chang, speaking as an individual committee member and not for the committee. “If we do a website, we’d want to plug a gap where there is one. It’s certainly not intended as a slap to anyone.”

One business owner willing to take a gamble on Port Orchard is Melinda Brown and her partner Shane Makoviney, who will open Melinda Lee’s at 810 Bay Street on May 1. Shane is a clock repairman; Melinda is an artist and gardener. Their store will offer a potpourri of artwork, garden starts, gifts and sundry supplies that would be useful to boaters.

Lee is bullish on Port Orchard. She sees a positive momentum in the downtown mix of stores despite the economy. “We love Bay Street and believe in it and believe in what it could be,” she said.

Of course Port Orchard business extends outside the downtown district, and the committee will pay attention to those folks as well, Chang said.

Colebank said, “it’s not as important to draw new business as it is to keep our current businesses happy.”

So what should city government do to make the city a business friendly place? Parking you say? Right, it’s on their to-do list. What are your other beefs, worries or needs? Take the survey on the homepage.

17 thoughts on “PO Tourism Committee Morphs Toward Economic Development

  1. Maybe Port Orchard could see what Gig Harbor is doing to attract new business’s. We find ourselves shopping in that area more and more every month. Costco, Home Depot, Blazing Onion, and what seems to be an increasing number of shops and restaurants. What is not to like?

    It would seem to me the that the Chamber of Commerce, City Council, Mayor, and many others would have “economic development” at the top of the list on their “Things To Do” listing.

    The comment “Of course Port Orchard business extends outside the downtown district, and the committee will pay attention to those folks as well, Chang said.” was revealing. Has the lack of economic development in other areas of Port Orchard suddenly been noticed? What vision.

    I wish you well, I would like more reasons to spend my money in Kitsap County, but Gig Harbor looks better and better every year while the best Port Orchard can do is yearly Seagull yelling and arguing over the color to paint downtown (maybe that was the same event, CRS these days).

    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

  2. Roger and all – Oops, the wrong poll was displayed with this post since yesterday. The correct poll is up now on the blog homepage. CTH

  3. Roger,

    All those businesses that you and I shop at in Gig Harbor had originally wanted to build right here in South Kitsap. Instead of working with them, our county worked against them. Now that tax revenue goes to Pierce County and Gig Harbor instead of Kitsap County and Port Orchard.

  4. Chris,
    I looked at that “poll” and did not find any good answers. Why has all the new business’s opened in Gig Harbor over the last year, even in the recession? When you talk about the “City of Port Orchard” I hope you are not talking of just downtown Port Orchard. Where is “downtown” Gig Harbor? Gig Harbor has restaurants and business’s on both sides of Hywy 16 and is spread out over a large area. Gee, much like Port Orchard, except neither Port Orchard or Kitsap County, South can support and sustain what business’s we have, much less attract new ones.

    Find out why Gig Harbor is thriving and you will have at least one better answer for the poll. I will continue to spend a greater portion of my income in Gig Harbor, if Port Orchard and our County Commissioners want a bigger share, they need to work for it. So far I am not impressed at either of their track records.
    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

  5. Roger – What’s your impression of the Burnham Drive area. Some people have been discouraged by the roundabouts, which they are redesigning?

    Chris Henry,reporter

  6. Trying to do economic development in this economy is challenging at best — and is never quick — but it certainly isn’t for lack of effort on the part of the City. That said, there are a number of initiatives underway that we anticipate coming to fruition within the next 12-15 months.

    We don’t necessarily see retail such as Gig Harbor has, as sustainable, long term, economic development — and while it does generate sales tax revenue, it doesn’t provide long term, family wage jobs either — and that is where our main focus is.

    Just as you learn in Business 101, the best source of new business are your existing customers, it is also a long-proven economic development fact that the best source of new jobs are from your existing employers. To that end, we have rebuilt a number of the City’s internal processes, policies and procedures, and have become what I like to term as “Aggressively Business Friendly.” We are working hard — with some measure of success I’m happy to say — to increase the business opportunities available to our existing local firms, with an eye towards creating more jobs from within.

    That doesn’t mean we aren’t out beating the bushes looking for other opportunities either. We are currently (and have been for over a year) working with a major marine manufacturer, as well as another marine manufacturing prospect, a marine repair and maintenance organization, a medical provider, and a manufacturer of unique, specialty products among others. Timing (existing leases, etc.) and the current credit market are among the challenges many companies face in this economy, but the ones we’re dealing with are solid prospects.

    To follow on to Kathryn’s comment… The area at Sedgwick and Sidney was originally scheduled to host most of what currently exists at Gig Harbor North. Leases had been signed, and construction was scheduled for several of those stores. The only one that actually got built however, was the Albertson’s. It was at that point, when a new County administration come in, that they downzoned all that property (before it became part of the City) from HTC, to 1 unit per 20 acres. THAT is what spurred the development of that retail corridor in Gig Harbor. It took almost a dozen years before that land overcame a number of Comp Plan and land use challenges, and was annexed into the City, before it was once again ready for retail development. Unfortunately, Gig Harbor North was already built, and the demand was gone. Population is just now beginning to increase, and the demand for those retail services is once again beginning.

  7. Wow. Good posts. My husband started living in Gig Harbor in 1990. He had graduated from South Kitsap in 1987. In 1992 we married and I joined him there. Like most newly married couple in their 20’s we rented a small apartment and saved to purchase a house of our own. At that time he worked in Bremerton and I worked in downtown Tacoma. What Gig Harbor has in the way of business development now, to which Roger refers, did not come easy or without leadership struggles and community controversy.

    During that time we were living smack dab in the middle of the anti-not in our town WalMart campaign. Talk about division between community members and neighbors. People were literally getting into confrontations at the grocery store. Only the old bridge was in place traffic and commuting sucked (45 minutes each way for me to go 15 miles) and the overall sentiment of the town leaned towards stubbornly and proudly doing whatever it took to remain a small quaint fishing village with limited development. The “Factory Outlet Shopping Center” that was built by the bridge never had any success and was loosing tenants at a frightening rate.

    Gig Harbor had a very closed door mentality during that time. That really turned us off to even considering purchasing a home there. We concentrated on South Kitsap and not finding anything we liked there turned our attention to Bremerton.

    I disagree with Mayor Cappola here..

    “We don’t necessarily see retail such as Gig Harbor has, as sustainable, long term, economic development — and while it does generate sales tax revenue, it doesn’t provide long term, family wage jobs either — and that is where our main focus is.”

    He is forgetting about all the health care facilities that are in place now. In the early 90’s the 4700 Pt. Fosdick Multicare building was off and running. It has expanded two additional times since then. Now there is St. Anthony’s in multiple locations and the Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Medical Center extension also on Pt. Fosdick. Those big sprawling facilities with businesses that do provide long term, family wage jobs.

    Gig Harbor took a lot of lumps and a contentious roundabout way to get where it is. Maybe Port Orchard is just in the process of taking its lumps and working through its contentious roundabout way before it gets to where it needs to be.

  8. As for Gig Harbor, OPG is/was a client and we sat in on several city council meetings as it explained, described, appealed, and worked with them towards getting Gig Harbor North off the ground. We even made public comments on its behalf. The entire process took years, and yes – there was much protest. It’s just the way this region seems to roll.

    Totally agree with Lary regarding the value of reframing internal processes, policies and procedures as critical to economic development efforts. It may not be as sexy as a new business or building, but the ROI is much higher.

  9. Chris,
    I have no big problems with Burnham Dr. I have been on roundabouts all over the world, some with 10 or more lanes. The biggest problem is those who do not understand the use of roundabouts or ignore the signs showing the proper routes. Used right, traffic may slow, but seldom stop.

    I have lived in South Kitsap over 25 years and remember very well what is was like in Port Orchard and Gig Harbor. Gig Harbor had growing pains, but they seemed to have a plan and stuck with it. Port Orchard is just starting that route and it will be interesting to see if lessons learned in Gig Harbor will result in a better Port Orchard. As for the County, it has and will dig its own grave. Few would ever accuse the County of favoring economic growth or development, especially after trying to start or run a business in Kitsap. Will the County change and actually become an economic driver? I seriously doubt it. Will Port Orchard? I do not know.

    Mayor, when you make statements “We don’t necessarily see retail such as Gig Harbor has, as sustainable, long term, economic development — and while it does generate sales tax revenue, it doesn’t provide long term, family wage jobs either” you might not realize the affect of the medical facilities that have been built. Those will attract further business involvement and additional jobs. You may be missing a piece of your puzzle. Gig Harbor is showing it is open to change and development and willing to grow. You are changing “internal processes, policies and procedures…”, but is it supported by business’s? Business 101 also shows that it is the feedback, support, and over the fence talks from your existing customers that will make a difference. An existing business might expand 40%, but if because that same business owner convinces another potential business that Port Orchard is a good place to be because of how he has been treated, your potential return on investment will be much greater in the long run. Done right it can be an exponential change in your ROI.

    Now is the time to put the lines in the water. Hesitate and the you may come up empty handed.

    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

  10. Colleen,

    The medical community in the Pt. Fosdick area certainly does constitute positive economic development — much like the one growing rapidly in Port Orchard in the Tremont/Highway 16 area. If memory serves me correctly, what has grown into that medical area in Gig Harbor is where the Walmart was originally slated to go. Medical is a much better, more sustainable, higher paying business cluster than retail.

    However, you do have a significant amount of retail in that area as well — Uptown Gig Harbor, Safeway, QFC, etc. However, if you look closely, there are a LOT of empty retail spaces there. And while generating sales tax revenue for the City, retail such as that, and Gig Harbor North, don’t produce any substantial number of long term, family wage jobs, and it does require an unbalanced amount of public safety services — such as law enforcement.

    The bottom line is, retail isn’t bad to have, but you need a richer mix of businesses that do produce higher paying jobs. Family wage jobs produce a significantly higher amount of revenue that is spent and recirculated within the community, generating more sales tax for the community than retail alone. That wa the point to the response to Roger.


  11. Not sure what happened to my post from last night, but I still think Gig Harbor is on track better than Port Orchard or South Kitsap. Yes, a “richer mix of businesses that do produce higher paying jobs” is very important. Unless you are lucky enough to already have a base of business’s that pay very well, you end up trying to attract those business’s and compete with other areas trying to do the same thing. I would think a “new” business to the area would look for somewhere that their employees can be comfortable, buy groceries, and be in an already established community with all the conveniences. I am sure they would not want to run the gamut of contradicting rules and regulations, fees and taxes, and lack of vision that have been seen in Port Orchard and South Kitsap.

    The truth is you can not rely on any one business or any one method. You have to be able to react fast, truly support, and really show a desire to be the best area for business’s, families, and a community. If it was easy or written in a book in the library I doubt we would have a problem expanding existing business’s or attracting new business’s. I have seen what Gig Harbor has done in the last 12 months. What will Port Orchard and South Kitsap have to show in the next 12 months?
    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

  12. Chris
    To answer your question on roundabouts. I do not mind the Burnham Dr area. I have been in 10 lane roundabouts overseas. Drivers here just need to learn how to drive through a roundabout. It needs to be picked up in drivers education class’s at all levels and added into the testing for drivers license’s. That and more roundabouts in Kitsap will help. What is not to like? No traffic light, no red light camera, and traffic can keep moving. Those that do not like them or are frightened of “new technology” can drive another route. The same as those who do not like red light cameras avoid them by bypassing the area.
    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

  13. Chris, the poll isn’t working from my computer. I’ve looked numerous times since you made comment no. 2, but still no luck. Should I find someone with a PC? Or a newer Mac?


  14. Roger,

    Port Orchard no longer has “contradicting rules and regulations, fees and taxes, and lack of vision.”

    I don’t know how long it has been since you’ve done anything with the City, but one of the very first things that changed was to fulfill a campaign promise that there would be certainty in all the City’s rules, regulations, and processes, and that they would be the same for everyone. Port Orchard now has the quickest permitting in the region, and the rules are the same at the end of every project as they were in the beginning. As for taxes and fees, we also have the lowest fees in the County for most things, and we didn’t raise taxes this year – including declining to take the allowable one percent property tax increase.

    Finally, there is a vision – and it is shared by the Council and staff – as well as many of our citizens. And that is for Port Orchard to become a proactive, first-class destination place for living in safety, raising your family, owning a successful business and visiting for pleasure. And while the usual naysayers and cheap shot artists will no doubt weigh in with their usual negativity, the simple truth is, when you look at where Port Orchard was just a few years ago, and where it is today, I’m proud to say we are on the road to making that vision a reality.

  15. Kim – I see that two people have taken the poll. Is it that you don’t see the poll at all or that you can’t take it or that you can’t view the results?

    I had problems posting it. Maybe I put too many options for answers.

    Well, anyway. Share your opinion with us.

    Thanks, Chris

  16. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen any negative comments on this site about Port Orchard, the South Kitsap School District, or what the county is doing in the south end. Or not doing. Have I missed something?

    I think people are generally in favor of the direction the City government and the school district are going in and appreciative that the Mayor takes the time to explain the thought processes behind some of the decisions. I know I am.

    We’ll probably never be as cool as Gig Harbor. I can live with that.

    That being said, why isn’t great schools an option in the poll? That’s really what people look at.

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