Letters to the Editor

September, 2014

HPU dealing well with challenges, President says

Your article about the financial picture at Hawaii Pacific University (August 2014) painted a rather grimmer picture than I believe the reality calls for.

It is true that HPU’s part-time enrollments decreased after the 2008-09 financial crisis and subsequent military sequestrations, as they did across many universities in the nation, including in Hawaii. It is true we have been steadily adjusting our budgets to fit that new reality.

However, those challenges were not new or sudden. Rather, we addressed them earlier this summer and they were well documented to the media. It is part of the practical reality that a private, nonprofit university, while not a business, must operate like one.

All told, while we faced certain challenges in balancing our operating budgets last year and this one, our financial health is quite favorable and our full-time undergraduate and graduate enrollments have been steady over the last three years. Our provisional financial results for FY 2014 (which ended June 30) show we are less than two-tenths of 1 percent away from a balanced budget.

We are also grateful that our far-sighted board of trustees allowed us to make modest use of resources to aid the transition and to pave the way for new investments in the future. Our current reserves continue to exceed $65 million in addition to our physical plant assets, which provides stability for a mid-size private university in this era and is a strong tribute to the financial acumen and management skills of my predecessors.

By September 2015, when HPU celebrates its 50th anniversary, we expect to have the Aloha Tower Marketplace open, to have added a research feed mill on the Big Island, and to be celebrating 50 years of accomplishments together with our 17,000 alumni who live in Hawaii. And, we look forward to a happier review from our friends at Hawaii Business magazine.

—Geoffrey Bannister President, Hawaii Pacific University

 

Story ignored Hoku’s failures, reader says

Dustin Shindo is a bright, creative, ambitious schmoozer. And, boy, did he and his sycophants take you for a ride (July 2014). While I can’t comment on his latest endeavors, I will comment on his Hoku saga.

Fundamentally, he, Kaleo Taft, Darryl Nakamoto and, later, Scott Paul were all in way, way over their heads. They misfired first on the fuel cells and the upcoming (not!) hydrogen economy. They then thought they could make big bucks in the polysilicon business, convincing all kinds of investors they could pull it off. They misfired badly as to how much the whole thing was going to cost in Idaho and had to sell out to the Chinese. They also got into the commercial PV field in Hawaii and achieved modest success. But when the curtain was falling on the Hoku hoax after years in a zombie state, Hoku couldn’t find any buyers for its supposedly profitable solar division.

Enough of my opinion, look at the numbers. Of all the years that Hoku was public and reporting its earnings, it lost millions every year except for a single year of modest profit.

Karl Stahlkopf has been the No. 1 peddler of Shindo Kool-Aid. According to Stahlkopf, Shindo et al did everything right. If only those pesky “externalities” hadn’t been there. Darn! Not unlike the doctor who said the operation was a success, but the patient died.

Bottom line: Hoku failed because of the people who led the company. Poor business decisions. Flawed strategy. And for Hawaii Business to portray individuals like Shindo as being brilliant visionaries without looking at the numbers, red ink and concrete reality of the hoax that was Hoku is disappointing.

—Albert Ellis

Corrections

Par Petroleum Corp. continues to operate and produce petroleum products at its refinery in Kapolei. Hawaii Gas is now owned by Macquarie Infrastructure Co. Incorrect information was reported about these former assets of Pacific Resources Inc. in the story “Grow, Evolve or Die” (August 2014).

 

ScoringLive.com is an independently owned and operated website with more than two dozen local contributors. Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s OC16 channel is among its sponsors, but does not operate the site, as was incorrectly reported in Highlights from the Local Web (August 2014).

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