Something’s Happening Here
A string of controversies on Kauai is changing the way people do business. The rest of the state might not be far behind
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Where does that leave business and government?
“It’s incumbent upon us to seek out the wants and needs of a large group of stakeholders,” says Tokioka. The challenge though is both cultural and social. When people are working two jobs and struggling to spend time with their families, it is unlikely, even if they were predisposed to speak out, that they would dedicate extra hours to attending council or planning meetings or writing to the newspaper.
Tokioka says a centerpiece of Baptiste’s administration has been providing monthly or bimonthly meetings in communities to seek out a wide representation of community sentiment and also to involve more people in community planning. “The mayor wants to create a dialogue so we can tap into a broader base, to the that greater majority.”
Business, she says, must do the same today on Kauai.
“There is always a concern in business in trying to get something done quickly or efficiently, but I think where we are as an island, it is probably better to take more time and in some cases, a lot more time, and take the input and get buy-in,” Tokioka says. “So you have success at the back-end.”
Is the Superferry a good example of the opposite approach?
“Hindsight is always much easier, but clearly that project is not moving forward as planned,” she says. “You really can’t rush things here. It is better to take a little time and do your due diligence and come out with a better product, embraced by a greater segment of the community.”
The same story is taking place on all the Islands. Maui has several flashpoint developments, including Maui Land & Pine’s since tabled plans for Honolua Bay (See our July 2007 issue.) The Big Island has the luxury development Hokulia. On Oahu, there is Turtle Bay Resort; Kakaako Waterfront is another. Communities feel overrun throughout the Islands. Many are also experiencing similar shifting demographics and more diverse stakeholder groups to incorporate.
Early-stage dialogue with communities about development is critical today.
Francisco says the buzzword is triple bottom line, where a business equally values both its own revenues along with the community and the environment. He says while many areas across the state (and country) are debating that formula, on Kauai, the triple bottom line has become mandatory.
“Your business plan has to include community,” he says. “That is what I consistently say in my messaging.”
It was a Monday in March, when Aloha Airlines shut down. Sixty people on Kauai lost their jobs. Sixty people, some with families, lost their income, their health insurance, their security. By Friday, 50 Kauai business owners and executives had gathered for a job fair, to offer them jobs.
“Sixty people, 50 booths, and a ton of pastries. I was like ‘Oh my God! Whoa! Whoa!’” Francisco recounts, his arms raised in mock protest. “We could have opened up a bakery.”
“People just wanted to say we care. We just wanted to let them know, on Kauai, we are one community. No matter what part of the community you are from, we are still Kauai, whether you are for or against the Superferry, for or against runway expansion, whatever. In the end, it is all about Kauai.”
Francisco, like nearly everyone interviewed, points out that Kauai has a extremely high percentage of people who donate money and time to charity, from business executives to blue-collar workers. Indeed, according to the KPAA study, 88 percent of the community donated to community causes. That includes a stunning 68 percent of households making under $25,000.
That’s what Kauai is, he says.
“That is where all of this is leading. People want to be pono. People want to be good. People want to take care of this place,” Francisco says. “Kauai is not antidevelopment. This is a place with tremendous heart and aloha. People want to know you’re genuine, your intentions are good and if the community is taken care of, the business will succeed.
“It is just time to bring everybody together.”
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