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8 Ways to Fire Up Hawaii's Economy

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6) Conserve energy

Conserving energy means saving money that pays for oil — money that mostly ends up outside of Hawaii.

Oil not only fuels our cars but generates most of the electricity in Hawaii. So cutting energy use not only helps the planet but keeps money in Hawaii that can be spent stimulating the local economy.


Hawaiian Electric Co. spokesman Peter Rosegg said that, depending on oil prices, a 10 percent reduction in Hawaii’s oil imports would keep $250 million to $700 million here each year.

“Last year, Hawaii sent nearly $7 billion out of state for oil to provide jet and marine fuel, gasoline and electricity,” Rosegg said. “We need to increase energy efficiency in our homes and businesses, get higher auto mileage and use more local renewable resources like sun, wind, water and even garbage to generate electricity. If we do this, we can keep part of those billions at home to create investment and new jobs.”

Energy-efficient technologies are often more expensive up-front, but save money in the long-run. And those up-front investments would help Hawaii’s economy right now.

* With Hawaii’s abundant sunshine, it makes sense to install solar panels for water heating. State and federal tax credits and electric company rebates bring your cost on a $5,000 system down to about $1,500 (Find more info at

* Replace older, energy-guzzling appliances with new efficient ones labeled “Energy Star,” and switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs that last eight times as long as regular incandescent bulbs and use 25 percent less power.

* Install photovoltaic and wind-power systems to cut your use of oil-generated electricity.

* Wash clothes in cold water and hang them to dry inside or out.

* Run the dishwasher only when full; use the air conditioning only when really necessary; install a timer on the water heater and add an inexpensive insulation jacket; turn on the refrigerator’s energy-saving switch and set the temperature at 37 degrees F and freezer at 0 degrees; and switch to low-flow shower heads and shorter showers.

* Instead of driving, carpool, ride TheBus and other public transportation, walk or bike.

Find more ideas at;; and the Alliance to Save Energy at —BC


7) No layoffs

People won’t spend money if they don’t have a job. So one obvious way to boost Hawaii’s economy right now is for businesses to keep their workers employed.

The biggest mistake companies can make during a down economy is to cut their talent, says Barron Guss, president and CEO of Altres. He says layoffs might be a quick fix, but the perception that a company doesn’t value the contributions of the workers who helped create value and generate profits in the past can damage its brand and hurt future business.

Instead, companies should take this time to get their house in order and focus on employees, Guss says. Make sure your staff is running on all cylinders in the most efficient way by having the right people in the right positions, getting the right mix of permanent and temporary employees, outsourcing noncore functions to increase efficiency, and doing a good job of recruiting. Remember that your competitors may be beefing up their people equity by training and developing their staff; taking skinnier margins; cutting nonessential expenses, such as travel costs or entertainment; asking employees to take voluntary furloughs or reducing hours and wages — anything to prevent layoffs.

“People need to remember that we will come out of this slump,” says Murray Towill, president of the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association. “And when we do, businesses will need their employees to help get them back on track.” —SE

8) Stay at a Hawaii hotel

While falling visitor numbers cripple Hawaii’s No. 1 industry, maybe you can’t afford to fly across the Pacific. The solution: Take a staycation. If you shop around, you’ll find plenty of bargains for kamaaina, such as free extra hotel nights and complimentary meals. The money you spend will keep hotel workers employed and help ancillary businesses like car rental agencies, restaurants, airlines and tour guides.


There are plenty of adventures to choose from, both familiar and new: Stay in Waikiki for a night on the town, watch Madame Pele expand the Big Island, or perhaps visit Molokai and Lanai for the first time. –JU

Other things we can do right now to help Hawaii’s economy

Compiled by Hawaii Business with the help of Paul Brewbaker, consultant and senior economic adviser to Bank of Hawaii, and Leroy Laney, professor of economics and finance at Hawaii Pacific University and economic adviser to First Hawaiian Bank.

* Workers: Be more aware of the risk your employer faces and be as productive as possible.

* Consumers: Don’t overreact. Spending stimulates the economy, but if you are worried, focus on the necessities and investing in the future.

* Businesses: Over-reacting isn’t good for your business. Assess your circumstances and spend smart. Remember, Hawaii went into the recession in a better position than many states.

* Businesses: Offer unpaid internships to college students; they provide experience for the intern and help for your business. Or hire a new employee; the pool of available talent has grown.

* Government: Don’t wait: Float bonds and act now on big-ticket capital projects like schools, roads and sewers.

* Government: Other development can happen without costing government a cent. For instance, giving private developers the opportunity to build around future rail stations means that when the train is up and running, parking lots, convenience stores and housing will already be in place to fuel new economic growth. –BC

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