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Stop the Madness

Our community is deeply divided over the recent Hawaii Superferry controversy. It’s the latest in a string of debates - over the Akaka Bill, homelessness, education and mass transit - that leave us residents wondering about this collective entity called our “state” and what we stand for. How the rest of the world views Hawaii these days is an even more troubling question. The Hawaii Superferry story has merited ink and/or Internet space from the Los Angeles Times to The New York Times to The Economist. Here’s The Economist’s take from the Sept. 20, 2007 print edition: “Surfers can line up again and again to block the ferry and other harbingers of the future. But change is as inevitable as the tide.”

Some Hawaii folks have posited that the Superferry controversy makes it look to the rest of the world as if we don’t know what we’re doing and heightens business concerns about the stability of investing in Hawaii. Others say no business should get a waiver from the requirements of our law, especially because one of Hawaii’s top assets is its fragile environment. The tug between the two preferred images of Hawaii – a beautiful, culturally rich place to visit vs. a great place to do business – has never been more evident.

There are important stories in this issue of Hawaii Business that dispel some of the myths about doing business in Hawaii and shed light on who we are and who we could become. Take popular, earthy, straight talking, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, who graces our cover. As Features Editor David K. Choo shows us in “Honest Harry” on pg. 39, Kim, with his bona fide local credentials, recently testified in support of the Hawaii Superferry because it fits his preferred vision of Hawaii as a “nice” place to live. Under Kim, Hawaii County has developed inclusive, transparent, community-centric plans for growth and development that could be a model for other parts of the state, too.

Superferry or no Superferry, there’s no evidence of Hawaii scaring away investors yet, at least in Hawaii real estate. Did you know the third wealthiest landowner in Hawaii is the New York-based The Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX)? Yes, THAT Blackstone Group, which went public in June and has been extensively featured, along with founder Stephen Schwarzman, in the business press. As Cathy Cruz-George shows us in “Big Spenders” on pg. 28, our Wealthiest Landowners List reveals a big shift to offshore ownership over the past few years. It’s not inconceivable that a huge global entity like a Blackstone might knock perennial No. 1 landowner Kamehameha Schools from its perch someday. The question is, will the new owners care if Hawaii is a “nice” place to live?

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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Hawaii Business,November