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Banking on Bremerton's success

At a glance the golden shovels and pile of rocks on the asphalt parking lot at Second Street and Washington Avenue might appear insignificant, but in the eyes of Bremerton city officials, they marked a milestone in the redevelopment of downtown.

The groundbreaking ceremony for Kitsap Credit Union’s corporate office on Monday marked the first privately funded project in downtown, said Mayor Cary Bozeman.

The $12 million building is scheduled to be completed and opened for business in early 2006.

“Someone in the private sector had to take the risk with us,” Bozeman said. “We were hopeful the credit union would join us in that risk.”

City officials knew that the city had to lead the charge in revitalizing Bremerton with the construction of Bremerton Harborside’s Kitsap Conference Center and Norm Dicks Government Center. However, for the revitalization to be successful, private industry had to commit to it as well.

“It takes those willing to take risks to make to make things better,” Bozeman said. “The vision gets closer and closer as the dots begin to fit in place.”

The credit union began its search for a location for its new corporate headquarters two years ago when a contingent from the city led by Economic Development Director Gary Sexton presented the institution an opportunity, said Elliot Gregg, president and chief executive officer of Kitsap Credit Union.

The credit union had been at its Burwell Avenue location since 1974 and had run out of space, Gregg explained.

“The city said we need you and want you, and we came together and realized that there was an opportunity here,” he said.

At the time the convention center was not built nor was the government center, but there was plenty of hope for Bremerton, he added.

“Our history said yes, since our birthplace was in the shipyard,” Gregg said. “We looked at it and saw it was a sound financial decision.”

Congressman Norm Dicks (D-Belfair) said the credit union’s decision to build in downtown is an important step in the city’s revitalization efforts.

“To have the credit union step up at this early stage of the enterprise shows sound judgment and is a sign of courage,” Dicks said.

Dicks, who played a key role in the revitalization of downtown Tacoma, said it took a long time for the private sector to buy into the idea of a renewed downtown there.

“I believe it is going to happen faster here, because the private sector gets it and believes in it,” he said.

Several exciting things are happening in Bremerton and Dicks said he is working hard to keep the momentum going.

“I’ve never seen Bremerton more alive, and we’re going to keep working until we finish it,” he said.

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