2023: Strategic Planning paving the way for Kitsap's thriving economic future

2023: Strategic Planning paving the way for Kitsap's thriving economic future Main Photo

25 Jan 2024

Economy, Year in Review, 2023

In a year that marked KEDA’s 40th anniversary as Washington State’s primary economic development organization for Kitsap County, we celebrate the resilience and progress of the past four decades, while focusing on the future, and prioritizing the needs of Kitsap County to ensure economic vitality for all its residents.

Throughout 2023, KEDA's work concentrated on business outreach, catalyzing growth, fostering innovation, and cultivating an inclusive economic landscape. Our journey began with eight strategic planning sessions involving over 60 leaders and stakeholders from Kitsap County. Their valuable insights and perspectives served as the cornerstone for crafting KEDA's inaugural five-year regional economic strategy, aptly named “One Kitsap”. This comprehensive plan is designed around focused strategies, measurable outcomes, and empowered leadership, aiming to propel Kitsap County into a prosperous future. 

More insights on the strategic initiatives outlined in "One Kitsap” will be shared later in this post, highlighting the collaborative efforts and forward-looking vision that define KEDA's commitment to the economic well-being of Kitsap County.

2023 Highlights 

Annual Meeting/Economic Forecast

Our signature Annual Meeting and Economic Forecast event was a testament to KEDA's reach and influence, drawing over 200 stakeholders eager to chart the course for the region's economic future. This event featured an economic forecast with noted WWU economists Hart Hodges and James McCafferty; reviewed KEDA’s work in 2022 and presented goals for the year ahead; while celebrating Kitsap entrepreneurs and micro businesses, and economic champions. 

BIPOC Business Forums

In  2023 KEDA refocused on extending our reach and influence with traditionally underserved communities. The success of our first two in-person BIPOC Business Forums, was a result of a partnership with the  Kitsap Small Business Development Center, and collaboration with community organizations Kitsap Strong, NAACP Unit 1134 Bremerton Branch and the Up From Slavery Initiative who strongly influenced program goals and facilitated community outreach. The events reflected KEDA's commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion and supported our goal to foster authentic relationships, provide resources and relevant expertise, and provide a forum for meaningful discussions.  

Microbusiness Accelerator Program

In 2023, KEDA celebrated a milestone year in its mission to cultivate Kitsap's entrepreneurial landscape. Thanks to a generous grant from the Washington State Microenterprise Association, KEDA partnered with collaborators—Vibe Coworks, Kitsap Bank, and Kitsap Community Resources—to launch an impactful initiative: the 5-month Microbusiness Accelerator Program.

Nine ambitious entrepreneurs from Kitsap were the beneficiaries of this program, which delivered tangible results through a holistic approach to business development. Participants received rigorous training, invaluable mentorship, and attended workshops covering pertinent topics crucial for success in today's market landscape. Additionally, they had the opportunity to elevate their professional image through commercial video production and headshot sessions.

The program also facilitated new collaborations among technical assistance providers, fostering inclusivity and community engagement through initiatives like BIPOC business forums and inclusive lightning talk sessions. This initiative underscores KEDA's commitment to empowering diverse entrepreneurs and fostering sustainable business growth in Kitsap

Kitsap Industrial Readiness Summit

In August KEDA convened the Kitsap Industrial Readiness Summit, bringing together key stakeholders, including Navy leaders, elected officials, business owners, and developers, to shed light on the Navy's monumental investment in Naval shipyard infrastructure. Naval Base Kitsap’s Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is one of 4 shipyards scheduled to receive significant investment through the Navy’s 21-year, $20 Billion Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (“SIOP”). The summit underscored the pivotal role KEDA plays in aligning public and private interests for the region's economic advancement.

WAV-C Showcasing Autonomous Vehicle Capabilities

In its second year, KEDA’s innovation cluster grant initiative, WAV-C (Washington Autonomous Vehicle Cluster)  gained 70+ industry members, establishing relationships on the regional and global stage. 

Demonstration Project: 
WAV-C partnered with SERCO, with support from The Suquamish Tribe, the City of Bremerton, and the Port of Illahee to conduct a demonstration project utilizing autonomous vehicle technology to map dump sites in the Puget Sound’s Illahee Waterway.  Phase 1 of the Tire Reef Cleanup demonstration project showcased marine autonomy capabilities, innovation and environmental stewardship. 

WAV-C Solution: The BIRD

The WAV-C Solution showcased a groundbreaking collaborative approach to developing unified solutions to acute industry problems. The BIRD (Buoyant Intelligence and Reconnaissance Device) gives naval operators the capacity to gather reconnaissance information autonomously, saving both lives and resources in contested areas. This shared innovation framework is a testament to KEDA’s capacity to nurture new technology and grow business opportunities.

APEX Accelerator

2023 was a banner year for KEDA's APEX Accelerator program (formerly known as PTAC) which provides technical expertise and training that empowers small businesses to take advantage of government contracting opportunities. KEDA’s APEX program is widely recognized for the unique expertise of counselors Terry Homburg and Mary Jo Juarez, both retired Navy contracting officers, and KEDA’s collaborative relationship with local prime contractors and Navy Commands.  

KEDA APEX introduced Prime Connect—a new monthly structured matchmaking event—that fosters collaboration between primes and subcontractors and nurturing project alliances. These interactions opened doors for future partnerships and provided insights into upcoming project opportunities. 

Training events organized by KEDA APEX saw record attendance, covering diverse topics crucial for navigating the complexities of government contracts. Classes included Ethics Requirements in Government Contracting, Writing Winning Proposals, and comprehensively navigating Federal Contracting procedures. These sessions assisted and empowered businesses to navigate complex landscapes confidently.  

Strategic Collaborations
Strategic collaborations with Keyport and PSNS Industry Days, and Alliance Northwest, underscored KEDA APEX’s integral role in connecting Kitsap businesses with key players in the complex world of government contracting. 

Local Company Engagement

Through over 30-site visits to local companies, KEDA reinforced its commitment to intimately understanding and supporting the local business landscape. These visits facilitated deeper connections and provided insights crucial for tailoring support and resources to meet Kitsap's diverse industries' unique needs.

Multifaceted Partnerships

The depth of KEDA's engagements extended to multifaceted partnerships spanning broadband expansion, housing initiatives, industrial capacity, entrepreneurship and innovation, regional economic development, and STEM education. KEDA also played a pivotal role in assessing Congressional Community Project Funding. These collaborations fortified Kitsap's position as a hub for innovation and progress.

Local Economic Research & Facilitation 

Providing economic data and resources is a key economic development function that provides critical market intel for businesses, jurisdictions, site consultants, and developers. In 2023 KEDA partnered with Western Washington University’s Center for Economic & Business Research to publish our annual Top Employers Survey, Kitsap County Economic Profile, and Cost of Living Index reports. KEDA also began initial work and meetings to lay the groundwork for Industrial Lands and Building Report  that is part of our critical 5-Year Economic Strategy.

New Business Recruitment

As Kitsap County’s state-designated development organization, KEDA regularly refers recruitment prospects to the Port of Bremerton, commercial developers, and appropriate jurisdictions, KEDA amplified its advocacy for community-driven initiatives, ensuring Kitsap's voice resonated at all levels of decision-making.

Supporting Small Businesses via “Buy Close By” Shop Local Campaign

Amidst its diverse initiatives, KEDA championed the Buy Close By shop local campaign, advocating for Kitsap small local businesses during the critical holiday shopping season. “Hidden Gems”, a multi-platform social media campaign, featured videos and interviews with 12 unique Kitsap businesses and emphasized the significance of local patronage. KEDA partnered with Visit Kitsap Peninsula and all five Kitsap Chambers to amplify the reach and impact of the campaign.

2024 and Beyond

2023 was a year of robust business and community engagement that underscores KEDA's unwavering dedication to economic vitality, community resilience, and inclusive growth.

The creation and refinement of One Kitsap, KEDA’s ambitious 5-Year Strategic Plan and associated fundraising campaign recognizes the intense regional and national competition for jobs, investment, companies, and talent. One Kitsap is a platform for a self-determined approach toward a consensus future that will drive economic opportunity while enhancing Kitsap’s beauty, quality of place and life.

New or enhanced efforts made possible by One Kitsap include creating industrial capacity; increasing workforce and decreasing job vacancies; growing business and building community. Learn more about One Kitsap (kitsapeda.me/onekitsap) and find out how you can become engaged in shaping a future where Kitsap County thrives and offers Economic Vitality for All.