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Big Island Business Report 2014

(page 4 of 8)

Photo: Courtesy of Cyanotech

Essential Elements

A research facility proves Hawaii Island is the ideal breeding ground for diversifying the Island’s economy.

Part of what makes Hawaii Island so attractive to researchers is that they can find things here that don’t exist anywhere else on Earth. That’s much of the attraction for the tenants at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA).

The location is unique in that it includes a dual-temperature seawater system that is the only one of its kind in the world, according to a NELHA report by UHERO, the economic research organization at the University of Hawaii. The deep, cool seawater allows its tenants to do things here that would be impossible elsewhere.

“We use the cold seawater as a source of trace minerals in our Spirulina cultures,” says Gerry Cysewski, Ph.D., who is the chief science officer and executive vice president for one of NELHA’s anchor tenants, Cyanotech. “We also use it to chill-dry our products, which allows us to dry them in a low-oxygen atmosphere that preserves their nutrients.”

Cyanotech’s research and developments in microalgae technology, made possible in large part to its location at NELHA, have gained the company global recognition. But Cyanotech is not the only one.

Other aquaculture tenants at NELHA are taking advantage of the unique environment —and the climate that allows them to work year-round— by doing such things as breeding disease-free and –resistant shrimp that are shipped all over the world. That company alone has invested more than $6 million in its facility.

Another, PM&AM Research, specializes in research on autonomous vehicles that carry sensors, cameras and other equipment into the ocean. This type of work not only affects the local economy by creating skilled jobs, but also improves national defense, environmental imaging and exploration and manufacturing.

The Rundown

  • NELHA is a state agency operating an ocean science and technology park in Kailua-Kona.
  • More than 25 percent of NELHA’s tenants are involved in research activities, according to UHERO.
  • The research activity contributes to the state through investment in human capital and knowledge spillovers, creating highly skilled jobs for the community, according to UHERO.
  • The economic impact at NELHA is around $300 million to Hawaii Island at present, according to Cysewski.
  • At about 45 percent occupation, there is potential for more than doubling NELHA’s economic impact with good-paying, high-quality jobs, according to Cysewski.

Spotlight On: University of Hawaii at Hilo

The University of Hawaii at Hilo students continue to raise the bar by coming out on top in several competitions and achievements. Personal interaction with professors who are involved with, and care about, their students’ well-being has resulted in students who excel in all aspects of their studies. In particular, UHH students tend to excel in the math, business, and science fields: a student from the Computer Science department won first place at the 2013 Microsoft US Imagine Cup Competition, while another student from the College of Business and Economics recently finished first, with a perfect 100 in performance, in an international Business Strategy Game. These student achievements, amongst many others, exemplify the high standard of education being offered at UH Hilo.


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