Secretary Reed comes to town

Washington state Secretary of State Sam Reed (center) listens to Bremerton economic development director Gary Sexton (right) explain the intricacies of the Harborside Fountain Park Thursday. - Phtoto by James Mange
Washington state Secretary of State Sam Reed (center) listens to Bremerton economic development director Gary Sexton (right) explain the intricacies of the Harborside Fountain Park Thursday.
— image credit: Phtoto by James Mange

After spending almost an hour visiting with Mayor Cary Bozeman and city economic development director Gary Sexton, Washington state Secretary of State Sam Reed was ready to hit the town Thursday morning.

Reed, Sexton and Reed’s communications assistant Stephanie Horn began their tour at the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority’s Harborside Condominiums and made the swing through downtown viewing the myriad of projects connected to the city revitalization.

Throughout the tour, Sexton explained how each of the projects came together through partnerships.

“I’m just very impressed with what I’ve seen so far,” Reed said.

“It’s been a number of years since I was in downtown Bremerton.”

The last time Reed was in town was back in the 1990s before the city’s recent revitalization efforts began taking hold.

“It’s a good model for other parts of the state,” he said. “Many cities are facing similar situations with their downtowns.”

Among those are Arberdeen and even Olympia, which doesn’t have any major retailers in its downtown, he said.

While Bremerton’s revitalization has been largely funded through government sources, Reed said he believes Bremerton is uniquely situated to take advantage of the state’s improving economic climate.

“Because of Microsoft, Boeing and Starbucks, we have an international reputation, and Washington has a diverse economy, which is very important,” he said.

Although many major companies reside on the east side of the Sound, Reed said he expects places like Bremerton to begin seeing similar economic drivers take root in their locales as well.

Reed pointed to Spokane as an example of a city that enjoyed reneewed prosperity as it was largely funded through private sources.

“With the cost of housing in Seattle, I think you’re well-positioned here,” he said.

One of the main attractions for the city is its abundance of beautiful waterfront property along with its close proximity to the Seattle area, he said.

Even though Bremerton and Kitsap County rely heavily on their federal and military presences in their respective economies, Reed said he sees that changing as the 21st century progresses.

“The No. 1 thing the state has is high-tech and the No. 2 thing we’re working on is new biofuels,” he said. “I think we’re going to see more of that in the 21st century.”

With higher education gaining added importance, Reed said that Bremerton’s Olympic College is well-positioned to be a leader statewide in that arena.

“I was just on a trade mission to Vietnam and visited a college where they have a partnership with Olympic College,” he said.

Washington state was once a national leader in higher education, but now there are fewer openings on the state level than there were in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, he said.

“We’re looking to expand those opportunities on the state level,” he said.

One of the options for achieving that goal is allowing community colleges like Olympic College to begin offering four-year degree programs, he said.

Since Bremerton has directly benefitted from state funding in many of the revitalization projects, Reed said he was pleased with what he saw, especially the Harborside Fountain Park, which Sexton noted draws thousnnds of children and their families to downtown during the summer.

“That’s something we haven’t seen in years,” Sexton said. “Kids walking through downtown to get to park and families pushing strollers since there isn’t any parking.”

Next summer the Port of Bremerton’s marina project will be completed and the entire marina will be filled with boaters, Sexton said.

“I’m glad the state is doing something, and I think it’s important for the future here,” Reed said.

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