Big Island Big Ideas
Local leaders chart six ways to revitalize the economy
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Photo: Mark Arbeit
“We’re a big island but a small community. That’s what makes Hawaii Island unique. It’s what binds the people and it’s what will get us through this recession. Not, no can. Can!”
Mayor Billy Kenoi’s confidence is shared by a host of other Big Island leaders. Where outsiders see a crippled tourism industry, high unemployment and reduced real estate investment, these local leaders see lots of big projects starting or on the horizon, a community consensus that is stronger than ever, and an abundance of visionary but realistic ideas.
“Some people might call Hilo the sleepy town, but I assure you, we’re not sleeping,” says Rose Tseng, chancellor of the University of Hawaii at Hilo. In fact, Tseng says the Big Island is bustling with exciting initiatives that will improve and diversify its economy – and the state’s – forever. She and others cite potential growth in science, technology, renewable energy, construction, tourism and, perhaps most important, education – all of which they say will make the Big Island a great place to live instead of just a great place to visit. Residents understand the challenges – too little capital, too much red tape and differing visions – but they also realize what is at stake.
Kenoi, for example, loves the Big Island and says he’ll never leave, but fears his three young children will not feel the same way. He wants to make sure they have reasons to stay. The following pages contain six ideas from a dozen Big Island leaders about how to turn the Big Island into a place that those children will always want to call home.
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