January 10th, 2006

Business Outreach Throughout the State of Hawaii

For the past three years as a State Representative, I have been participating in meetings and events in mostly Oahu business chambers and organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce, Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong Business Association of Hawaii, Filipino Chamber of Commerce, Honolulu Filipino Junior Chamber of Commerce, Waipahu Business Association, West Oahu Economic Development Association, and Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California.

In preparing my economic package as Chair of the House Committee on Economic Development and Business Concerns, I felt I needed to hear the concerns of the business community not just in Honolulu, but throughout the entire State of Hawaii. Thus, in the past several months, I met with business organizations and leaders from the islands of Oahu, Kauai, Hawaii, Maui, Molokai and Ni'ihau either on Oahu or on their islands.

I have a better understanding of the struggles rural areas have. For example, last week, I spent Thursday, January 5th and Friday, January 6th in Molokai. I was invited by the Molokai Chamber of Commerce to speak at their quarterly meeting and visited many business owners. I realized there is a delicate balance between keeping the feel of a small community with economic growth and development. I sensed a struggle between marketing more tourists, which benefit Molokai retailers, restaurants, farmers, and tourist industry versus maintaining a small number of tourists to keep the island's pace the way old Hawaii was. There also appears to be a debate on whether Genetically Modified Organism farming should be allowed on Molokai, which is one of the biggest employers on the island.

Nonetheless, I believe agriculture and innovative entrepreneurs are a bright hope for Molokai. I met with energetic farmers and creative entrepreneurs in art. Areas government can help is helping the farmers with their irrigation system, programs to encourage entrepreneurs to do business on Molokai, and educational support. These are issues I will be working on with the Molokai legislators and the rest of my colleagues in the legislature.