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Optimism Despite Tough Times on Molokai

Residents want businesses and jobs but also want to preserve their traditional way of life. What happens to Molokai may teach Hawaii about the costs and benefits of restraining development and creating a sustainable future.

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When Young Bros. announced in December its 25 percent rate increase for less-than-container-load shipments, it also changed schedules. Barges now arrive every Wednesday and Thursday on Molokai. “We have this back-to-back barge service and we have customers that don’t have warehouse space,” Haliniak says. Young Bros. has agreed to store the items at the pier, but it still means another trip for truckers to pick up goods. “[Young Bros.] tries to do some workarounds for us, but the bottom line is we still have to eat it,” Haliniak says.

Molokai Ranch boarded up the
island's only theater last April.

“Our island continues to struggle,” says Danny Mateo, Maui County’s Council chair and Molokai representative. “At this particular point in time, with Molokai Ranch not being a player in this community, there’s a need for us to take a look at other options and try to continue to encourage businesses to look at Molokai.”

Many nonprofits and government agencies are encouraging Molokai’s people to start their own businesses. Maui Economic Opportunity Business Development Corp. and Maui County’s Kuhao Business Center provide classes on starting a small business, writing a business plan and managing a company. After the ranch closed, the state Department of Labor’s Molokai office received a $389,000 emergency federal grant to train displaced workers. According to Alberta Patchen, manager of that office in Kaunakakai, about 60 of the ranch’s 98 laid-off workers have returned to work. The rest are in programs funded by the emergency grant.

Terri Waros - Kalele Bookstore
and Divine Expressions 

Patchen says only a handful of people have left the island to seek jobs. Unemployment benefits generally end after six months and a three-month extension. “When it gets closer to that time and they haven’t found anything, I think it’s going to encourage them to make a move,” she says. “Especially the younger ones. Some of them have built homes and bought cars, so they might be struggling to figure out what they’re going to do.”

Others try to start their own business on Molokai, but the road to entrepreneurship is paved with difficulties. Teri Waros began the process of opening up Kalele Bookstore and Divine Expressions early last year. Waros, a former general manager at the Lodge and Beach Village at Molokai Ranch, left the company before the shutdown.

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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Mar 12, 2009 08:02 am
 Posted by  Thomas Anderson

The author of this article is too kind and not at all realistic: In my view from 37yrs of experience being a resident and then having to move away b/c of no jobs, the prevailing attitude of the people on Molokai is one of hostile isolationism overtly laced with racist attitudes. "Don't let the (expletive) haoles come in and steal our `aina!" describes typical attitudes of those wishing to keep the island pristine from the outside world at the cost of stunting its economic development and future. As a result, residents have to poach and steal resources from the very land (still owned by Molokai Ranch, btw) they protest to protect. They justify this blatant trepass with excuses like, "We're Hawaiian and it's our anscestor's land," or "Nobody going care, da ranch stay out of business anyways." With no incentive for industries to enter and combative attitudes all around, troublemakers/"activists" like Walter Rittee might very well get to be just like the characters on "Lost": An island all to themselves and no where to go. Which is precisely what they really wanted all along.

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Apr 6, 2009 08:01 pm
 Posted by  captainmolokai

The battle between the small group of activists and the Molokai Ranch (MPL) is ugly on both sides and is hard to ignore. There are ugly signs on fence posts everywhere spreading hatred in every direction. The Molokai Dispatch is nothing more than a political arm of the activists filling the pages with hatred and discord. No one is trying to solve the problems or come up with a realistic plan for the island. My experience talking to other Hawaiians - from other islands - is that think the people of Molokai are a crazy group - lazy and living off the funds supplied by the rest of the state. They ride around at night shooting from their pickup trucks at the axis deer that are thriving on the island. They throw their trash on every pristine beach, too lazy to pick up their own waste. The homelands are a piece of appalachia in the middle of the Pacific. A rich Hawaiian is ohne with two cars on blocks.

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Feb 2, 2010 05:20 pm
 Posted by  rudedog

Forty seven years ago I married a girl whose family lives on Molokai. Those years allowed me to experience this unique place and appreciate the mindset of its equally unique people. I never had the feeling anyone felt disadvantaged or thought they lived substandard lives. All the individuals I met were kind, unselfish and eager to share the bounty of living in such a beautiful place. They genuinely love and embrace the island and the simple lifestyle. They will somehow make things work out.

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