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Big Island Business Report 2014

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The Next Big Thing

Hawaii Island is fast becoming the place for innovation.

Hawaii Island, known colloquially as “The Big Island” has been long thought of as a place to go when you want to slow down, but look a little closer and you’ll see that, while it’s still a great place to unwind, the Island is actually outpacing areas around the globe when it comes to innovation.

You probably already know about the vast beauty and natural resources of the Island, but did you know that it’s also home to exciting new innovations? The work that’s being done here is being recognized, and it’s time we all took note. Work on Mauna Kea even recently won a Nobel Prize for physics.

Gone are the days when the sugar plantations dominated the economic playing field. Now, the Island is fast becoming the place to be for researchers, astronomers, educators and developers.

“Our size is certainly a challenge, but let’s not forget the tremendous opportunities that come with that size,” says Jacqui Hoover, executive director for the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board and president of the Hawaii Leeward Planning Conference. “We are seeing the economic and industry sectors diversify, which brings all other diversification opportunities and challenges.”

What does this mean for Hawaii Island? It means that it’s evolving. The local community is progressing with the times and actually exceeding standards by setting the bar for others. It’s also providing the infrastructure that will allow local children to not only get their education on the Island, but also to find burgeoning careers in new fields that were once only available if they left home.

What does this mean for the global community? It means they may want to start paying attention. The research and innovation happening here is being looked at as a model for places around the world as an example of how they can improve their strategies.

“Hawaii Island is a unique place that is the perfect incubator for trying out all types of innovative ideas and to know that they can work in so many different locales,” says Vivian Landrum, president/CEO of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce. “We have 11 of the 13 climate zones here. You can travel around the island and find a locale that can mirror almost anywhere else in the world.”

While the developments made are certainly changing the world, perhaps what’s most innovative is the style in which they’re being done. The people on Hawaii Island aren’t innovating for innovation’s sake.

“We are very close to our community,” says David Honma, senior vice president and Hawaiian region manager for First Hawaiian Bank.

“We are looking for things that everybody can benefit from.”

They’re doing it with the local community in mind, and they’re doing it in ways that will preserve the integrity of the Island and the local culture in the process.

“We are setting up for organic growth so that we can keep growing and sustain that growth,” says Barry Taniguchi, owner of KTA Superstores and former chair of the Mauna Kea Observatory Board. “A lot of us believe that there can be a balance between culture, the environment and science. We can work together.”

Median Household Income (2011)

Hawaii Island: $46,186
Honolulu: $65,489
Hawaii State: $62,071
United States: $50,502

Per Capita Income (2006)

Hawaii Island: $51,454
Honolulu: $62,534
Hawaii State: $60,554
United States: $48,451

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