By Steve Sego and Wes Larson
Oct 19, 2017
The parade of hopeful cities across North America queuing for Amazon’s Golden Ticket seems to grow daily. From Austin, Texas to Vancouver, B.C., more than 100 cities have shared plans to respond to the Amazon.com Inc. HQ2 RFP, which is due Oct. 19.
The objectives outlined in the RFP are quite clear: a location within a regional metropolis of more than 1 million, a stable and business friendly environment, around 45 minutes from an international airport, a few miles or less from primary ground transportation corridors, established public transit systems, the ability to attract and retain strong technical talent, and a community that thinks big and creatively.
Amazon’s long-term interests could best be served by a regional expansion across Puget Sound to Kitsap County. Not only does Kitsap fit the bill per Amazon’s RFP, but there would be the additional benefit of proximity and easy access for the Seattle HQ to a satellite campus with all of the amenities and benefits defined in the RFP.
The West Sound meets the population density requirement as part of the Greater Puget Sound area, with connectivity to SeaTac via Highway 16/I-5, WSFand Fast Ferries, and the Port of Bremerton’s airport which currently supports the capacity for many cargo and passenger airlines – current plans in the works would extend the runway to support most international passenger and cargo carriers.
Kitsap Transit operates a county-wide bus and local Foot Ferry system, and beginning this past summer a half hour Fast Ferry connection to downtown Seattle. Kitsap and Bremerton are undergoing a renaissance, including investment and renovation of urban areas to support new and affordable housing options from Kingston to Port Orchard. The more than 125 years of investment by the Navy in Kitsap provides economic stability unmatched in most of the Puget Sound region.
The modern Navy workforce is populated by tech-savvy and next-generation thinkers, and private sector contractors employ current and former military engineers, logistical managers and technology sector veterans.
Just last month Microsoft opened its first state office outside of the Seattle/Eastside area in Kitsap to engage the expertise and technology team of a local Kitsap resident who served as CTO of Applied Technical Systems, a Kitsap firm founded by a Navy veteran. The evidence supports the argument that Kitsap attracts – and retains – just the kind of workforce that Amazon is anxious to build. Kitsap is clearly a community that “thinks big:” the recent commitment to Fast Ferries which will connect most of the county to downtown Seattle has inspired others in the region to follow suit.
Finally, Kitsap offers the secret sauce that Amazon – and hosts of others looking to expand in the PNW – are desperately seeking: affordable housing, lifestyle amenities and efficient connectivity to the Seattle economic hub.
Kitsap County currently enjoys the top spot in Washington’s most affordable counties index when measuring income against cost of living. Traveling to downtown Seattle from Kitsap can take less time than from Bellevue, Ballard or Burien. Kitsap HQ2 will provide a bonus amenity as new and existing employees will seamlessly trans-locate and integrate with both of the regional HQ campuses.
We envision a campus at the Port of Bremerton’s Puget Sound Industrial Center area, which offers thousands of acres of buildable land unfettered by the need for rezoning and costly delays. The logistical, community support, workforce recruitment/retention and transportation checklist is complete, and the blank slate of real estate for a new strategically located campus offers flexibility and substantial costs savings.
In Kitsap, Amazon could start with a regional satellite campus that could evolve as a legitimate HQ2 over the next decades.
The Kitsap plan makes sense for Amazon, as well as for any other Seattle based regional company looking to expand in the region.
If Amazon’s objective is to begin the slow shift from Seattle and Washington, a la Boeing, then no reasonable argument or proposal to explore local regional options is tenable.
However if Amazon is truly seeking the solution for expansion problems in Seattle and is searching for the simplest and most cost-effective path to building the company’s future, Kitsap County offers the best option. Kitsap HQ2 supplies all of the necessary components and amenities with the benefit of proximity and cost savings unattainable elsewhere.