2000 was the year of leaps and bounds for 38 neighbor island companies.
Last year, Hawaii businesses reaped the benefits of the nation’s stock market boom. It may now seem like a distant dream, but top executives around the state are still smiling at the blissful memory. “I think 2000 was a pretty good year for everybody,” recalls David Allaire, senior vice president of TS Restaurants of Hawaii and California.
And that it was.
With its $80.5 million in sales last year, a 12.3 percent increase over 1999, TS Restaurants was just barely edged out of a slot on Hawaii Business’ list of Biggest Sales Gains for 2000, which runs concurrently with the Top 250. Still, of the 38 Neighbor Island-based companies in the Top 250, 37 percent did make the list – 13 percent more than last year. The jump in sales was not exclusive to any particular island or industry either. While real estate and construction held strong on the Neighbor Islands last year, so did health, tourism and agriculture.
Of the biggest movers, Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd. on the Big Island saw revenues rise a whopping 89.3 percent last year, while Kauai-based Coldwell Bali Hai Realty Inc. increased sales 57.4 percent over 1999 figures. “We’re still seeing a very strong market over here,” says Michael Schmidt, principal broker for Coldwell Bali Hai Realty. “Many of our buyers coming from the mainland still find Kauai an exceptional value as compared to some of the more discovered areas.”
It was also a banner year for the automotive industry on all three islands. Kauai-based King Automotive Center Inc. grossed $27.8 million last year, up 9.9 percent from the year prior. Valley Isle Motors Ltd. bumped up sales 12.6 percent to $68.9 million during the same period, and Inter Pacific Motors Inc. on the Big Island had 2000 sales of $52.9 million – a 16.8 percent increase over 1999 figures. “Basically business increased because of the slowdown on the mainland that made more merchandise available to us,” says Walsh Hanley, president and chief operating officer of Inter Pacific Motors Inc. “Also, we haven’t had any huge economic shocks, like we’ve had plantations closing every year and so forth.”
Although not all of the Neighbor Island-based companies had stellar growth last year, only four of the 38 companies showed negative sales growth. Even the company with the biggest sales drop, MacFarms of Hawaii Inc., kept the slowdown to a mere 8.6 percent decrease from 1999 figures. Overall, the 38 Neighbor Island-based companies averaged a 19 percent increase in sales. Broken down by island, the average increases in sales were as follows:
Big Island 31.4 percent; Kauai, 14.7 percent; Maui, 9.9 percent.
As encouraging as those numbers are, however, it is unlikely that last year’s gains will continue into 2001. “I think with an uncertain U.S. economy, with our main tourist market of California being in an energy crisis, and as the dotcom dissolves, it’s going to affect the consumer confidence on the Mainland, which really directly effects us,” says TS Restaurants’ Allaire. “It’s natural to see a slowing of the growth at some point, and it looks like 2001 is that point.”
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