By John Powers
2014 will bring vastly improved economic conditions throughout our region, including North Kitsap — the Crossroads of the West Sound Economy.
I am not an economist, I’m an economic developer. I see our economic future through the eyes of the many businesses (all sizes and sectors) that the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance engages on a daily basis. I also view our local economy through a regional lens, always examining ways Kitsap is impacted by being an integral part of the Central Puget Sound regional economy and Greater Seattle market.
My day to day market exposure leads me to a clear conviction that our regional economy is powering through an economic recovery turn — like drivers moving from the brake to the accelerator as they sense the turn is quickly leading to a smooth straightaway. As we enter the seventh year of an atypical 10-year business cycle, our economy is beginning to experience “escape velocity,” when business and consumer confidence grows and economic growth steadily accelerates.
The recent passage of a two-year federal budget creates a sense of certainty that will buoy national economic confidence. The next three years will cap a solid recovery and produce meaningful economic growth (GDP of at least 5 percent) with even greater growth in Kitsap and our region.
In Kitsap, unemployment will fall below 6 percent and certain sectors (manufacturing, technology, maritime and defense) will experience near full employment. Important to all of Kitsap is the fact that the DoD picture is becoming clearer, and civilian employment at PSNS-IMF may grow to levels not seen since the Reagan era. When your largest employer (by a factor of 4 times) anticipates increasing its FTE base by more than 20 percent over the next few years, it bodes well for all of Kitsap and for the thousands of Naval Base Kitsap employees that live, work and shop in North Kitsap.
Kitsap’s economy is also diversifying. North Kitsap is home to many advanced manufacturing companies (Watson, TruLife, Thermion, Sage, and TMF, to name a few). This sector will continue to expand and hire in the coming years.
North Kitsap will continue to lead the growth in technology companies in the county. Kitsap’s technology community is well connected to the Seattle market in terms of ties, talent and infrastructure. Our current employment base of 2,000-plus tech workers will also experience robust growth (at least 10 percent per annum) in 2014. This sector is anchored by several outstanding local enterprises in the Poulsbo area (Paladin, KPUD, ATS, Avalara, and Taqtile, to name a few); and Bainbridge Island was recently recognized by Google as “the” outstanding e-commerce city in Washington state.
Tourism/Hospitality is also a large part of North Kitsap’s crossroads economy. The largest private-sector employer in North Kitsap, Port Madison
Enterprises, is undertaking a major expansion of its flagship enterprise, Clearwater Resort. This growth, together with continued community collaboration on eco-tourism initiatives in North Kitsap, will help to capitalize on the 7 million ferry riders using North Kitsap portals (Kingston and Bainbridge) annually, and will help to solidify North Kitsap as a regional player in this industry.
As we look back on 2013 and forward to 2014, I see our economy in clear transition, and I believe the changes that lie ahead will be welcomed by everyone hungry to get back to basics — and back to business.
On Kitsap — South, Central and North!
— John Powers is executive director of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
For a comprehensive economic forecast by economist John W. Mitchell, Ph.D., consider attending the Alliance’s annual Economic Forecast on Jan. 29 (register at www.kitsapeda.org).