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Mayor: Area growth rate greater than expected

POULSBO—Kitsap is growing. But some regions are growing faster than others, and if local leaders don’t prepare for the coming tide of residents, one mayor says, it will be difficult to enjoy the area.

“The population is growing more quickly in the north end of the county than the south,” Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson said.

“Not just Poulsbo. North county areas are growing more quickly than the south end. That’s not something to go, ‘Ha, ha, we’re growing and you’re not.’ It means we’ve got to shift our planning.”

Mayor Erickson recently did her own number crunching, comparing population and employment trends for Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Port Orchard, Poulsbo, and unincorporated areas of the county. She has shared her findings around the city, including the economic development committee on March 26, and stressed the need to prepare for the growth.

Erickson concludes that while Kitsap County is certain to grow, the north end of the county, which includes her city of Poulsbo, will bear the bulk of that expansion.

The numbers

Erickson said Poulsbo’s employment numbers — the number of people employed in the city — steadily climbed in the years from 1995 to 2012, from 4,275 to 5,742. Population growth echoed this trend, climbing from 6,023 in 1995 to 9,393 in 2012.

Averaging the percent of change each year, Erickson predicts that employment in Poulsbo could climb to 9,207 in 2035 and 10,174 in 2040. Population numbers for the city could jump to 16,013 in 2035 and 18,436 in 2040, according to Erickson.

Erickson is quick to say that she is not a demographer, rather, her background is in economics. She further notes that her numbers have yet to be vetted.

The mayor has brought her findings to county planning staff. While the county’s numbers don’t exactly line up with the mayor’s, she said that staff agreed with her assertion that the trends are heading higher.

Planning

Knowing and understanding the upward trends is important for area planning, Erickson said.

“This is an exercise in being prepared,” she said. “We have to be better prepared in the north end if we are taking more growth than had been anticipated.”

Preparation comes down to many things — roads, sewers and development, to name a few, and the tax-based funding from local and county sources that supports it all.

“Will it drive more revenue to us, yes, by allocation,” Erickson said. “But it will also cost us more money because we will have to plan and build more infrastructure.”

Expanding economy

While population trends continue to rise, other ventures in Kitsap may produce additional areas of growth. Erickson said, for example, that the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance is making a strong push to attract aerospace business and more to the region.

John Powers, executive director of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance, could not comment on the mayor’s projections, but did say the county’s economic prospects for increased manufacturing look fair, especially considering the aerospace industry.

“South Kitsap is home to our newest aerospace manufacturing company, Omohundro, and North Kitsap (has) 12 Trees Business Park, and Kingston is home to several advanced manufacturing enterprises that are growing.”

Such north end businesses, Powers notes, includes Watson, a furniture manufacturer whose customers include Boeing. There is also TruLife, a medical device and prosthetics company, which is looking to expand into the aerospace industry, along with TMF CNC Machining.

“Thermion Manufac-turing, located up in Kingston, is also expanding its specialty coating machine manufacturing operations,” Powers added.

“I see a bright future for manufacturing in our county for those firms already here, and those we will attract due to our outstanding workforce, strong legacy of industrial prowess, proximity and excellent connectivity to the I-5 corridor, competitive cost of doing business and, exceptional quality of life.”

An expanding economy and population is what Erickson wants her city, and region, to get out ahead of.

“I did this to be careful,” Erickson said. “Meaning that if we grow and we are not prepared for the growth, that’s when communities get into trouble.”

But it’s not just the community of Poulsbo that Erickson helms that she is considering.

“Poulsbo can’t be just one dot,” she said. “It has to be seen in the areas around it to understand what is going on.”

She added, “The word ‘growth’ is really frightening to people. If we’re clever, we can do this without losing the quality and character of our community. But that makes it even more important to plan for this. I am not trying to encourage growth, I’m trying to mitigate it.”

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