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November 2017 Chamber Connection Newsletter

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President's Message | November 2017

How things have changed over the last hundred years.

Of course we know that, but it is exciting to see major pieces of history occur before our eyes – and to live the results. Jack London’s wife, Charmaine, wrote about traveling with the Shipmans to their ranches, Puakala and Puu O’O on the slopes of Mauna Kea. To get there they traveled from Hilo to Waimea and from there up eventually to the east side of Mauna Kea.

That was the best way to go in the early 1900’s. Years later the military constructed a one lane – very windy – road over time called the Saddle Road, as it went through the saddle formed between our two largest mountains. This was a major improvement.

The State of Hawaii was truly blessed to have among its native sons Daniel Inouye. Hailing from Oahu, Senator Inouye saw the great need to tie together the East and West sides of the State’s largest Island. Over the years, piece by piece and using military spending, he saw to it that the Saddle Road was reborn as a smooth and (reasonably) straight highway that speeds our transit and helps immeasurably to bind us together as one island community.

In October – as representatives of the Island’s businesses – several of us were invited to the opening of the last of the Eastern section of the roadway. Fittingly, the highway has been renamed the Daniel K. Inouye highway in his honor and memory. We are all a part of this history. This provides our businesses easier to reach markets on the island both increasing our opportunities and our competition for customers. The benefit to the island is enormous.

Increasing business is a task that many of us have been working on now for a long time. Our efforts have been redoubled and those directly involved increased as the new Chamber years have begun.

In October several of us sat for about an hour to talk with Ian Kitajima of Oceanit – recently named Hawaii Venture Capitals Entrepreneur of the Year. Our discussion centered on what is needed to grow innovative and knowledge based businesses on Hawaii Island – businesses that could help us to keep our youth here while providing stimulating and high value careers.

Of course there is no simple “silver bullet.” Part of the answer lies in what and how we teach our youth in schools, clubs and associations. For instance, we have increasingly well developed Robotics clubs in many of our schools. These are effectively workshops where thought processes and ingenuity are focused on using new technology to solve base problems.

We wondered, as we talked, about how these and other opportunities might become focused on Agricultural Technology – a major emerging industry. For instance, could students be challenged to come up with machines that could pick papayas – now a backbreaking manual job?

If we can engage our youth in solving real problems that our industries face, some may become energized and encouraged to begin their careers here to continue to solve those problems. As we look at bringing in new industry – or broadening of existing industry – we need to keep in mind a long standing problem faced for generations here on the Island: newcomers often last no more than three years before returning to their mainland homes. So we see two hurdles: 1) creating jobs for our youth and 2) finding a way to encourage those who come here to remain.

November 2017 Chamber Connection Newsletter