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Maui Business Report

(page 5 of 6)

Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Siphers
 

Early Adopters

Skeptics said high-tech wouldn’t work on the Valley Isle. Maui Economic Development Board CEO Jeanne Unemori Skog recalls how the tech dreamers made their vision a reality.

Three decades ago, bringing the high-tech industry to Maui sounded like a pipe dream. Smart phones and the internet were the stuff of science fiction. Sugar, pineapple and tourism were the only major employers in town. But as Maui Economic Development Board president and CEO Jeanne Skog recalls, the believers didn’t give up.

When we started, high-tech wasn’t a buzz word. No one really understood it. Some people called it the electronics industry. So it just took a lot of perseverance to stay with the vision, and as time went on and we saw the incremental successes, it was very encouraging to keep going on that path.

What successes are you most proud of?

I think we’re really proud of the fact that we were innovative in developing the Maui Research and Technology Park with local partners. There were a lot of naysayers who said, “You’ll never do it.” And we just forged ahead and did it. It hasn’t unfolded the way we thought it was going to, but I’ve come to realize that sometimes you just have to do it—even though it may not follow the path you planned, it will go another way that’s just as good.

How has it changed Maui’s workforce?

With tourism and agriculture as the basis for our economy for so long, certainly our workforce had been geared in that direction. So we realized we had to look at skill-building in our schools. Today, we reach over 10,000 students and teachers in Maui County alone. It’s really nice to see kids who would not have gone on to high-tech careers if it were not for an MEDB getting involved in their lives at some point. To have them actually say that to us is like, wow, that really worked.

 

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