NETWORKING—A sold-out crowd packed the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai ballroom Friday for the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s (KKCC) Annual Membership and Installation Luncheon. Governor David Ige served as keynote speaker before installing the 2017-18 Board of Directors. Attendees visited booths presented by Chamber members before and after the luncheon during the annual Business Expo.
Governor Ige focused on issues of importance to West Hawai‘i’s business community. He said he’s pleased the Kona Judiciary Center is in the works and that international service was restored at the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport.
“Restoring international service not only benefits the people of Kona but also the entire island,” he remarked. Saying Honolulu is the nation’s fourth busiest international airport, Ige added the Kona service allows the state a more diverse portfolio “to attract more markets.”
To a round of applause, Ige announced visitor spending is up 20% on Hawai‘i Island and he expects that trend to continue with the Japan-Kona airlift increasing soon to daily service.
Ige shared some of his administration’s recent successes, including restoring the state’s fiscal solvency and that Hawai‘i is enjoying its highest bond rating ever. He is proud the $16M Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) building at Waimea Middle School is nearing completion and that the statewide Early College High School initiative is underway with $1M funding this program annually. ECHS allows high schoolers to earn six or more community college credits before graduating from high school.
“I’m committed to giving all high school students access to early college opportunities,” he continued. “The program ensures we can challenge motivated students with taking college credits while in high school, which in turn, helps us keep the best students in our public school system.”
Addressing homelessness, Ige said he’s committed to completing 10,000 affordable housing units by 2020 with 1,000 already done and 4,000 in the pipeline that will be ready in 18-months. He detailed homelessness is down 9% statewide and 32% on Hawai‘i Island when compared to 2016.
The governor says sustainability is a key administration priority, citing the importance of ocean resource and water shed management, food security, production of renewable energy and protection from invasive species. He lauded West Hawai‘I for having the state’s first managed fishery at Ka‘upulehu and that more than half of the island’s energy was from renewable sources.
Ige ended his talk inspiring small business owners to keep innovating and pointed out Hawai‘i claims three National SBA Small Business Owners of the Year—most recently Maui Brewing Company.
“It means we can be successful on a global stage,” he concluded.
New KKCC Board Installed
The new board of directors for fiscal year 2017-18 are Chair Matthew Grauso, Chair-Elect J. Porter DeVries, Past Chair Dale Suezaki, Vice Chairs Steven Kaneko, Pam Latinis and Teri Leicher and Directors Lauren Avery, Stephanie Donoho, Randy Kurohara, Jonathan Mitchell, Sharon Sakai and Laura Varney.
Island SBA Winners
Jane Sawyer, director of the Hawai‘i District SBA office, announced the annual Small Business Administration winners from Hawai‘i Island: Sherry Bracken, State of Hawai‘i Small Business Advocate for Media & Journalism; Brendan Robert and Kela Cosgrave of Big Island Booch, County of Hawai‘i Small Business Person of the Year; Shon Pahio of Business Services Hawai'i, County of Hawai‘i SBA Family-Owned Business of the Year; Tia Yamanaka of The Boutique Hilo, County of Hawai‘i SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Dennis Boyd, County of Hawai‘i Small Business Advocate for Financial Services.
For coverage of this year’s Pūalu Award winners, see separate story, “KKCC Pūalu Awards Tap Seven.”
Mahalo to luncheon sponsors Bank of Hawaii, Huggo's and Pacific Media Group.