What makes up the island economy?

Bainbridge Island’s economy is a complex mosaic of commuters, public- and private-sector employees, and solo entrepreneurs working out of their homes.

The mission of this year’s Bainbridge Economic Council’s Vitality Conference next week will be to pull all of those elements into focus.

“The idea is to get a snapshot of what we’re all about here,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Dwyer, one of the event organizers. “At the end of the day, we hope to paint a more interesting picture of what we are.”

The conference, which begins at 9 a.m. June 10, at Wing Point Golf and Country Club, will feature a luncheon address from Mike Thorne, the new chief executive officer of Washington State Ferries.

“There are 3,500 daily commuters on the island,” Dwyer said. “With a median metropolitan area income of $95,000 per year – and the figure for Bainbridge commuters may be higher – that’s an awesome economic impact.”

Panels will discuss the economic impact of public-sector employment, private forces and the non-profit sector.

The concluding panel will be an update on telecommunications issues. While those issues were the focus of last year’s conference, the picture has changed in the meantime, particularly with the acquisition of Northland Cable by AT&T Broadband. Representatives from AT&T, Qwest, local internet service providers and the city will discuss their plans for the future, as will the Kitsap Public Utilities District, which is considering laying a “backbone” fiber-optic cable onto Bainbridge.

There will also be a presentation called “Bainbridge Bucks,” in which “Yes!” magazine editor Sarah Van Gelder will talk about so-called “local currencies,” an innovative mechanism to strengthen local economies.

The underlying notion of the conference is to dispel any notion that Bainbridge has a one-dimensional economy, Dwyer said.

“We look at ourselves at times as a bedroom community, but we’re much greater than that,” he said.

The conference is open to the public. The $25 cost includes lunch. Reservations are being handled through the Chamber office, 842-3700.

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