By Chris Tucker and Peter O’Cain, May 1, 2015, Bremerton Patriot
Taiwanese businesses might one day ship Washington products from Bremerton’s industrial park via railroad to waiting cargo ships at the Grays Harbor deep water port. The products would then be distributed to Asian markets.
Bremerton port commissioners hosted a delegation of nine officials from Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, during a discussion of economic development opportunities April 30 at Bremerton National Airport.
“You have to build those relationships,” said Bremerton Port Commissioner Roger Zabinksi, who coordinated the meeting. “A lot of business is about who knows who and who can put in a good word for you.”
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle Director-General Chin “Andy” Hsing was among the delegates who toured Port facilities.
Chin sees Kitsap as a perfect opportunity because it’s close to Seattle and has an airport, Zabinski said.
“He really wanted to bring these business people over,” Zabinksi said of Chin. “He said these people have the means to really invest and they know other people who do.”
The meeting served as a way for local officials to show the potential of the Puget Sound Industrial Center (PSIC), formerly known as the South Kitsap Industrial Area.
“We mentioned the 1,700 Port-owned acres, the 11 pad ready sites, the access to rail that can ship to deep water ports, and the airport with a 6,000 foot runway with hangar space available for construction,” said Port of Bremerton CEO Jim Rothlin.
The Taiwanese delegates are interested in finding an alternative to Seattle and Tacoma, which are increasingly becoming more expensive and congested.
According to Zillow.com and the Seattle Times, the average price for a Seattle home is $481,300and the average price for a Seattle-area home is $358,200. Whereas, the average cost for a home in Kitsap County is $262,800.
Zabinski estimates Seattle commercial properties cost about four to five times as much per square foot.
The lower costs can mean businesses could gain certain advantages by working out of Kitsap County.
The Taiwanese delegates represented a variety of importing and exporting industries including those based in information technology, textiles and more.
“They export apples to Asia. They’re exporting Washington wines to Asia,” said Port Commissioner Axel Strakeljahn.
Strakeljahn said the Navy as well as at least two other businesses currently used PSIC and the Grays Harbor port. Waste Management transports garbage out of Kitsap County using the route, as does a propane company.
“We have the rail and the airport. We already fly freight in-and-out there every day,” Strakeljahn said of the Port.
The rail line — called the Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad, owned by Genesee & Wyoming Inc. — consists of more than 108 miles of track in Northwest Washington. It also connects Bremerton to Grays Harbor.
Grays Harbor “Is a deep water port, which means freighters … the container ships,” Strakeljahn said.
Since the PSIC is a Free Trade Zone, companies have the option of avoiding certain duties and fees if they import parts into Washington and do final assembly there.
But if a fully completed item were imported, the duties and fees would apply, Strakeljahn said.
While the talks between the Port and the Taiwanese are just that — talks — it’s an important first step.
“This culture tends to do business once they have a personal connection, which I think was very successful,” Rothlin said. “Most left the day discussing when they might come back and also invited us to a visit to Taiwan.
“They were very impressed about the industrial park, and the beautiful area, and the affordability for this location so close to Seattle. I would definitely consider it a successful first meeting.”