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Hawaii Recovery not Until 2012 or Later, CEO Survey Indicates

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A survey of local business leaders forecasts a long, slow road back for Hawaii’s economy, indicating that it will be 2012 or later before a full recovery.

That is one of many insights gleaned from the new Hawaii Business CEO Survey. The survey fills a void left by the major banks when they decided to discontinue their valuable-business confidence surveys. We plan to conduct our survey twice a year and publish the results in the magazine.

These pages tell us what many of Hawaii’s business leaders have experienced during the recession, how they coped, what they see ahead, and what they think government should do to build a better economic future. We welcome your thoughts at, where you can also tell us if you want to be included in our next survey. All Hawaii business owners, CEOs and presidents can participate.

What’s Ahead

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Clark Morgan, president and CEO of Alakai Mechanical Corp., says that in his more than three decades of business in Hawaii there’s never been an economic cycle as abrupt or deep as this one. His company’s sales fell from $68 million a year ago to $50 million this year.

“(Hawaii) won’t be back to where we were for years,” says Morgan. “We could be looking at one to three years to get back to normal and maybe eight or 10 to get back to the booming economy we had in 2007.”

The bright spot: Morgan sees tourism rebounding by next year even though he believes retail and restaurants will continue to be sluggish. Tight lending policies are part of the problem. “Monetary policy right now is so conservative because it’s being strictly controlled by the federal government. Most lenders are highly reluctant to take any chances at all.”

Yasuo Ogawa, president of Cowabunga! Computers, says he agrees with a sentiment he often hears: To aid in the recovery, the size of government has to shrink in response to the downturn. “In a deficit we should have fewer government employees,” says Ogawa, who lost $120,000 in state contracts – 10 percent to 12 percent of his sales this year – as the recession unfolded. “Everyone seems very upset that the heads of government have not foreseen this.”

At the same time, he hears from travel officials in Japan who complain Hawaii is not doing enough to lure tourists, including improving the state’s infrastructure. “They said Hawaii can live off the beach and Diamond Head for only so much longer,” says Ogawa. “There are also safety concerns coming up. They’re saying there’s no difference between Hawaii and L.A. except there’s more to do in L.A.”

Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

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Hawaii Business,December