Kitsap Bank has been central to the communities it serves since its founding in 1908. Whether it’s financing fire departments or inspiring local entrepreneurs, the community bank is on a mission to “cause good.”
By Judith Sears
Name: Kitsap Bank
Assets: $1.2 billion
Location: Port Orchard, Wash.
The first firetruck in Port Orchard, Wash., was personally financed by Hannah Langer, who, after her husband’s death in 1952, became the fifth president of Kitsap Bank. She was the first woman bank president west of the Mississippi River.
More than a half-century later, $1.2 billion-asset Kitsap Bank is the sixth-largest woman-owned business in the state. Two further generations of Langers have led the bank since Hannah Langer became president: Helen Langer Smith, chairwoman for 25 years, and Cydly Langer Smith, the current chairwoman.
And in an echo of Hannah Langer’s original investment, it handled financing for the Brinnon Fire Department, a rural fire department on the Olympic Peninsula. The financing underwrote the purchase of a new fleet of fire engines, hydraulic rescue tools and an emergency response vehicle, providing the 800 residents of Brinnon, Wash., with a fully equipped fire department. This work exemplifies Kitsap Bank’s family legacy and its enduring ties with the communities of western Puget Sound.
The funding of the Brinnon fire department also reflects Kitsap Bank’s expertise in municipal and specialty financing. “The great big banks pull out of the rural markets, so there’s a real opportunity for municipal lending in these areas,” says Steve Politakis, CEO of Kitsap Bank, “but some community banks don’t develop the expertise.”
With Politakis’ leadership, Kitsap Bank has a flourishing municipal and specialty financing portfolio, to the notable benefit of several small communities. For example, a recent line of credit made on a grant anticipation note will provide banking services to Allyn, Wash., a small village on Puget Sound that lacked any banking services. Kitsap Bank also made a seven-figure loan to Port Angeles, Wash., for a significant expansion of a shore pool at the William Shore Aquatic Center. “Whether it’s a city, a county or a fire district, we are very sensitive to the needs of the greater western Puget Sound,” Politakis says.
“Whether it’s a city, a county or a fire district, we are very sensitive to the needs of the greater western Puget Sound.”
—Steven Politakis, Kitsap Bank
One of Kitsap Bank’s major contributions to the western Puget Sound area is an innovative contest called the edg3 FUND. The contest asks local startups and small businesses that may not yet qualify for bank financing to compete for a $25,000 grand prize. Entrants are judged on their ability to make a positive impact in the community from an economic, social and environmental standpoint. Kitsap Bank also awards $5,000 to the company that best demonstrates the spirit of the community.
is awarded to the local startup that wins Kitsap Bank’s edg3 FUND innovation contest
The contest opens in mid-summer. The community bank then chooses 10 to 15 semifinalists, posts their names and videos on its website and opens up the contest for a public voting period. “The applicants get very, very energetic in getting their votes lined up,” Politakis says.
The public vote has an influence, but to avoid being simply a popularity contest, a committee of bank staff and local business leaders makes the final selection of five finalists using the public vote to inform their decisions.
Edg3 FUND is a registered event with Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), and the final round takes place in November in concert with worldwide GEW events. The evening of the event, which starts with a business showcase and networking, is well attended, with typically 250–300 attendees from the business community.
“We’ve gotten lots of feedback on how worthwhile the event is,” Politakis says. “Businesses learn how other businesses are doing things and how they might get future funding from banks.”
The 2019 winner, Fuchsia Shoes in Bothell, Wash., works with artisans in Pakistan to make handcrafted ballet flats, cashmere scarves and other accessories.
“They are very innovative with a very high-quality product,” Politakis says. “It’s especially positive that it allows the artisans to make a true living wage.”
The 2018 winner, Sequim Bee Farm in Port Angeles, used its edg3 FUND winnings to purchase equipment that has significantly increased production, increasing the company’s ability to generate revenue. Its products have won five awards from the Good Food Foundation, a national honor for food crafters. Another previous edg3 FUND winner, Combat Flip Flops, went on to be a contestant on ABC’s Shark Tank and was funded by three “sharks.”
Politakis views the edg3 FUND as a win-win for Kitsap Bank and the community. “We’re getting small companies in line to be great bank customers down the road, and it helps the community and promotes companies that are doing good things on a global basis,” he says.
On a mission to #causegood
Kitsap Bank’s community ties extend far beyond edg3 and its municipal lending specialism. In 2019, it supported more than 100 local nonprofits with more than $400,000 in donations.
“We have adopted the motto, ‘Cause Good,’” says Shannon Childs, the community bank’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer. She adds that Kitsap Bank uses the hashtag #causegood when sharing stories on social media about its work to support nonprofits. “We’re on a Cause Good mission, and we invite others to join us.”
The community bank’s charitable and entrepreneurial activities were recognized in 2019 with a National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion (NASS) as part of the Corporations for Communities Award program.
Kitsap Bank was nominated for the award by one of its beneficiaries, the Admiral Theatre. In the late 1980s, Helen and Cydly Langer Smith worked with other community leaders to rescue the Admiral Theatre, a Bremerton landmark built just after World War II, from disrepair.
Kitsap Bank encourages employees to volunteer, providing eight hours of paid volunteer leave time per employee annually and recognizing top volunteers at an annual program. In 2019, the top employee-volunteer was Kim Peterson, a Silverdale, Wash., branch manager who logged more than 500 volunteer hours.
“We challenge ourselves each day to make a difference,” Childs says. “We’re always looking to cause good in the lives of our neighbors, coworkers, family and friends.”
“We’re always looking to cause good in the lives of our neighbors, coworkers, family and friends.”
—Shannon Childs, Kitsap Bank
Judith Sears is a writer in Colorado.