The Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) develops the world of Kitsap County, with the goal of uplifting the area and businesses. The alliance was founded in 1983 as the economic developer for the area.
Executive Director Joe Morrison says that KEDA addresses issues facing for Kitsap County and local businesses. He explains that his job is “to work with the employers in this community to address individual and community challenges that are barriers to growth.”
“We want to see our local employers and our local businesses thrive,” Morrison says. “Sometimes businesses will have pain points, where we can help, and sometimes our community has pain points where we can be helpful. Two pain points in our community right now are the price of housing and the lack of workers.”
Before being part of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance, he was an economic developer for three years, and prior to that he managed an economic development fund for the city of Anchorage.
Morrison also has a Master of Business Administration and teaches graduate business classes with a focus on entrepreneurship. “It’s really fun to teach and it’s inspiring,” he says. “It gives you a different energy and outlook from your day role, and you learn a lot, too.”
At KEDA, Morrison oversees the day-to-day operations. “Lots of folks with my title call it ‘chief cook and bottle washer.’ It’s everything from working with the private sector to try to bring opportunities to bear in our community, to interviewing local companies to see what’s going well for them and what pain points they face, to speaking at and organizing our public events,” he says.
KEDA recently completed a five-year economic strategy. “It was created after a year and a half of work,” Morrison says. “We started off in the summer of ’22 with confidential one-to-one meetings. In January, we convened eight, large group-discussion sessions with 60-plus stakeholders.”
Representatives from various major communities including tribal, educational, Navy and private employers were invited to attend those discussions. “That has informed how we intend to approach our work for the next five years,” he says.
The five-year plan covers 2024 to 2028, and one facet is to encourage employment. Morrison says that KEDA wants to bring new people to the Kitsap County workforce, such as Navy members staying in the area after leaving the military and young people coming out of school. He believes such efforts could improve “the lack of workers” that is a distinct Kitsap challenge.
“It’s important to recognize that Kitsap is a remarkably special community with a great deal of opportunity for it,” Morrison says. “We’re part of the greater Seattle area. We’re different. We’re not on the I-5 corridor, but we can still get to Seattle in a half hour or an hour by water. … The lifestyle here is different. One thing that all people in Kitsap seem to value is the lifestyle and how it is not overcrowded, overbusy or not thoughtfully developed. And so, there’s still a lot of opportunity in front of us.”