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Globally Connected: Locally Sustainable

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Globally Connected, Locally Sustainable

Balancing Kapolei’s Growth

Some historians believe that as early as 300 A.D., highly skilled Polynesian voyagers struck out in canoes across thousands of uncharted nautical miles, using a sophisticated star–based navigation technology to search for new lands and resources. They made landfall on these islands, where they established settlements, and eventually a kingdom they named Hawaii. The original Hawaiians brought with them a native culture of malama ‘aina, or caring for the land, which would become a defining island value of balancing human needs and limited resources.

In less dramatic fashion, the first Kapolei “settlers” came to the City of Kapolei with modern day aspirations — opportunities for growth for their businesses, a better life and future for their families, and a lifestyle enhanced by a natural and cultural environment second to none. Since the City broke ground in 1990, the Kapolei region’s resident population soared from nearly 43,000 to more than 101,000 in 2010, and is expected to grow by another 62 percent to nearly 165,000 in 2035. Kapolei’s fast-growing population base has made it the land of opportunity for companies seeking business growth and for families looking for a better quality of life.


Like the early navigators, Kapolei’s route to a prosperous future is its connection to a broader world—in this case, the global community. Connectivity via global telecommunications and transportation systems is a key aspect of the long-range master plan for the region. It anticipated the need to link businesses to new markets, and open the way for government and the community to establish political and social relationships beyond its geographic boundaries.

A good example of this is the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting this month in Hawaii, with Kapolei as one of its venues. The U.S. is hosting 21 APEC economies whose representatives will be here to discuss economic growth, investment and trade in the Asia-Pacific area.

“Kapolei is on its way. Oahu’s second city will take center stage as a key venue when the leaders of the APEC member economies meet in November,” said U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, a longtime advocate for the Kapolei region. “It will serve as a secure and inviting place for diplomatic dialogue relating to the future economic strategy and outlook for the Asia-Pacific region.”


Living in harmony with the land — or in more contemporary parlance, living sustainably — is also a fundamental element in the Kapolei master plan. It is in close alignment with the community-based 2008 Hawai’i 2050 Sustainability Plan, which charts a course for the state’s sustainable future.

The Kapolei master plan, which predates the state plan by more than 60 years, was ahead of its time in making sustainability a basis for the city’s development. It considers how to use and preserve natural resources for future generations; how to build a globally competitive economy that allows residents to live, work and play in Kapolei; how to create a strong, healthy community where all citizens’ needs can be met; and how native and multi-ethnic cultures can be honored and kept alive. It also promotes living sustainably as a daily practice, and in ways that exercise care in the use and stewardship of the natural environment — malama ‘aina.

“Kapolei is a vibrant city that is forging strong links between east and west,” said U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa. “Good examples of this are the educational partnership between Japan’s Tokai University and our University of Hawaii — West Oahu, and the global appeal of the new Disney resort at Ko Olina that is sure to attract visitors from around the world. They’re all part of the larger effort to build a self-sustaining city where our children will be able to live and thrive.”

Hawaii's Fastest Growing Region: Kapolei by the Numbers

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