Interisland Perspective

Hawaii Business spoke with the executive directors of each of the economic development boards for the following counties. The directors shared their interpretations of their county’s strengths and weaknesses, and also provided a brief economic outlook.

January, 2002

HAWAII

STRENGTHS: More than $1.5 billion in federal projects in immediate pipeline – including Mauna Kea Science and Education Center, Saddle Road, and the Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center. Fairly stable visitor demographics. Technical jobs are stable and climbing.

WEAKNESSES: Trained labor pool for major construction projects is very short, with no time to train. Communication and outreach could be better and much more innovative, and state government entities could be more proactive about specific waivers and/or institutional mandates to ensure cash flow and local market supports for a limited time period.

OUTLOOK: Diversification strategy has paid off. Continued focus on agriculture – potential for $360 million in revenues from local purchase of ag products, services and commodities, as well as “Buy Local” and export opportunities. Another drop anticipated in early 2002 but recovery should be steady after that.

 

KAUAI

STRENGTHS: Visitor industry on Kauai has the highest percentage of timeshare properties, which are operating at occupancies in the low 90 percentile. Science and technology initiatives have focused on the defense/dual use niche market, which is experiencing excellent growth patterns following expected Department of Defense appropriations. Diversified agriculture is expanding with the availability of Stephen Case’s Grove Farm land.

WEAKNESSES: Small businesses, particularly retail, are hurting with revenues down 20 percent to 35 percent, depending on the region.

OUTLOOK: Kauai should fare better on the visitor side because its two strengths noted above and the September statistics have shown that. The science and technology industry will continue its rapid expansion as the defense/dual use markets respond to the needs of the Department of Defense.

 

MAUI

STRENGTHS: Technology sector is healthy with a number of defense/dual use companies expecting to grow and benefit from the federal emphasis on security and defense technologies. Agriculture sector is coalescing to leverage resources and create opportunities for marketing and business development. Transportation initiatives of state/county moving forward will improve quality of travel, life and business climate.

WEAKNESSES: Unemployment claims much higher than normal due to downturn in tourism. Small businesses impacted greatly.

OUTLOOK: Significantly larger UH presence on Maui is a boost to tech marketing initiatives to prospects who ask about workforce pipeline and access to university resources. Ongoing efforts to add two more buildings to the Research and Technology Park in the next 12 to 18 months. Visitor industry saw a resurgence beginning last Thanksgiving. Looking to beef up group activity in 2002.

 

OAHU

STRENGTHS: Honolulu has an excellent telecom and Internet infrastructure, a well-educated, productive workforce and university and community college system. Strong economic sectors based on Honolulu’s assets – tourism, healthcare, biotechnology, information technology, agriculture, defense, and ocean, earth and space sciences. Also boasts an East-West connection between the U.S. mainland and Asia.

WEAKNESSES: An entrepreneurial and small business sector struggling to survive. Reliance on tourism, which is most vulnerable and volatile in a recession. Training for new and incumbent workers who need to be more flexible to meet changing needs.

OUTLOOK: Short term, its two major industries – tourism and defense – are governed by outside forces. This underscores the need to diversify the economy. Long term, businesses and private sector leaders are committed to collaborating in order to develop a competitive economic development delivery system. Unique assets still lay the foundation for diversification for world-class successes.

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Jacy L. Youn