Opinion

Looking forward to opportunities of New Year

Thirty years ago, Kitsap County embraced the opportunities that the Trident Base at Bangor brought to our community.

Family wage jobs, needed infrastructure and enhanced quality of life were the result of this partnership. Silverdale had a unique role as it would become Kitsap County’s regional retail center to meet the needs of growth. Back then, Kitsap County suffered from what was termed a “sales tax drain” on our economy. Due in part to a lack of retail opportunities, Kitsap residents would too often spend their disposable income in downtown Seattle or Tacoma instead of their local community. Kitsap County today faces many parallels with our community from a generation ago.

While Silverdale will remain the retail center of Kitsap County for the indefinite future, it also will transform to meet the needs of changing demographics. Health care will become even more critical for a community with a larger senior population. To meet this increased demand, Harrison Medical Center has embarked on a significant expansion. The anchor of these investments will be the $180 million expansion in Silverdale which will be home to a 92-bed hospital. The goal is to meet the health care needs of Kitsap County residents here in our community, instead of being forced to seek care in King or Pierce counties. This has many benefits.

For patients and their families, local medical care is easier to access than being forced to rely on trips out of the county. Along with the immediate impact of new construction from the $180 million Harrison project, Silverdale will see additional development of medical projects

creating millions of dollars worth of new construction jobs in our community. On top of the upfront construction jobs, hundreds of permanent family‚Äêwage jobs will be created ranging from doctors and nurses, to medical technicians and support staff. All of these benefits could be lost to neighboring jurisdictions if decisive action is not taken in our community.

As Silverdale evolves to become the region’s medical center, the county commissioners are an active part of this transformation. We amended county code this past year to provide flexibility for Harrison’s expansion. The zoning of 450 acres of land north of Waaga Way with commercial and business designations provides expansion room for ancillary growth destined to come to our region. Infrastructure projects such as the $13 million Waaga Way extension, upgrades at our Central Kitsap sewage treatment plant and community amenities such as the Central Kitsap Community Campus will ensure that as Silverdale grows, our quality of life will be enhanced.

While our nation’s financial markets have faced some of the greatest challenges in decades and we collectively deal with the impacts of a recession, it is important to focus on the opportunities of the future. Harrison’s expansion in Silverdale is an opportunity that provides great dividends for our entire community. Kitsap County will strongly support this effort.

Josh Brown is the commissioner for Central Kitsap.

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