Chamber boss seeks growth outside-the-box

Sam Granato - Courtesy photo
Sam Granato
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The Silverdale Chamber of Commerce is rolling up its sleeves.

The business entity is forming an “Economic Vitality Task Force” to examine ways to turn Silverdale into a real metropolis — not just the “retail center of Kitsap County,” as many regard it.

Out-of-the-box ideas include creation of a huge conference center — the largest in the county; a “scientifically” accurate survey of hundreds of businesses; and examination of surprising commonalities between otherwise disparate groups — such as twenty-somethings and senior citizens — that may revolutionize how citizens view their community.

The Chamber met Nov. 13 to discuss the task force’s mission and introduce it to Chamber members. The task force will recommend specific projects to the chamber board, oversee those projects, and work with other entities in the area, such as the CK Community Council, to help make it happen.

Proposed task force members include Capt. Duane Baker, commander of Subase Bangor; Norm McLoughlin, executive director of the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority; Larry Thomas, CK Reporter publisher; David Johnson of Westsound Bank; Mike Walton, Acceleration Corp.; Granato; Jennifer Green, chamber president; and Kevin Wojcik, Silverdale WestCoast Hotel, chamber board member and task force leader.

The budding task force has already identified a number of projects, ranked short-, mid-, and long-range.

Granato sat down for an interview recently to discuss task force goals.

l “We’re going to be looking at a conference or convention center very seriously,” he said. “Most centers on the county can’t accomodate much over 500 people. We’ll want one to hold several thousand people.... A convention center (whose) size will have ripple effects in the community. More people utilizing more businesses. More businesses attracted to the area.

l “We’re talking to Olympic College about conducting a statistically valid survey of businesses in the area,” he said, “to learn their needs, strengths, weaknesses. It will be a written survey with interviews” to give it depth. “It’ll give us a better idea of our constituency.” The Chamber has 500 members and Granato guesses Silverdale has about 750 businesses, total.

l He said the chamber uses CK School District boundaries as a kind of “city limits” in lieu of actual incorporated borders. Places where CKSD dips into the city of Bremerton would be excluded from the survey.

l A Silverdale “economic conference” is tentatively scheduled for April 2003, with time, date and place to be set. It’s hoped brainstorming sessions at the conference will kick Silverdale’s economic engine into a higher gear.

l Steering committees will be formed under the task force to study the feasibility of projects. To date, project ideas include those mentioned plus a West Coast Navy post-graduate school; center for agriculture and aquaculture; branch campus of the Pacific Maritime Institute of Technology & Graduate Studies (headquartered in Seattle); a Silverdale “Sales Event” in the spring, with festival overtones, involving most businesses; a look at how many jobs may be lost to the minimum wage increase in January (to $7.01 per hour); the tentatively planned Community Campus, proposed by CK Community Council for Old Town or one of three other locations.

“We hope to create interactive communications with businesses to help enhance the sales of existing businesses, and bring in other businesses — types of businesses that ordinarily wouldn’t come to an area like this,” said Granato.

He said the Chamber is also working with the Regional Economic Development Council. He cited Nextel, just north of Bremerton, as an example of the kind of business Silverdale needs.

“They hired locally and brought money to the community,” he said.

Before getting involved with business issues, Granato was mayor of Bainbridge Island in the 1990s, and previously had a 30-year public sector career in human services in Texas, Vermont, Alaska and Washington, D.C.

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