LIHUE — Gov. David Ige covered a lot of ground in his 40-minute talk Thursday morning at the Lihue Business Association.
He quickly touched on the visitor industry, the economy, traffic, international flights, a recent visit to the Philippines, and clean energy.
While it was hard to pinpoint any of those as the key issue in his address to about 75 people, Ige did make one thing perfectly clear: He likes the state’s direction and believes it is making progress in many areas.
“We are working each and every day to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Hawaii,” he said.
The state is investing in airports, harbors and roads, improving traffic flow throughout the state, he said. And the state’s unemployment rate, at 2.5 percent, is the lowest dating back to 1976.
Visitors are coming in record numbers, more classrooms are being outfitted with air conditioning, homelessness is declining and there’s even a plan to deal with ever-annoying and at times destructive rose-ringed parakeets.
“I think the economy of Hawaii in good shape,” he said.
“We feel pretty good about being able to see continued growth,” Ige added.
Ige, who also made a stop at the Hawaii Farm Bureau conference on Kauai, pointed out early that international flights are again coming into Kona International Airport. That helps diversify the economy and gives the state the ability to accommodate more international travelers, he said.
He also noted that Southwest Airlines recently announced it will begin providing service to Hawaii in 2018.
“We are excited about our ability to try to spread the visitors across the state,” Ige said.
The state is looking for more ways to support agriculture and local ag products.
“That would help create business and employment opportunities,” he said.
The governor recently return from a weeklong trip to the Philippines and called it a “great experience.”
He said the people he met were “hard working, respectful and positive.”
Ige traveled with about 50 Hawaii business and community leaders and tour several provinces, including Manila, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Cebu.
Such trips, he said, are necessary for economic growth.
“We are definitely living in a global economy,” Ige said.
Regarding education, Ige said the state exceeded its goal of having 1,000 air-conditioned classrooms in the state with the total reaching 1,132.
He said AC will create a better quality learning environment for young people, who will not have to fidget and fuss so much if they are cooler.
“It’s like night and day,” he said.
Ige said he is committed to a plan to produce at least 10,000 housing units across the state by 2020 to help reduce homelessness.
“We have a strategy to achieve 10,000. We are well on our way,” he said.
In the two and a half years since he took office, Ige said the state has reduced a backlog of road work by about $240 million.
A project to add a southbound lane from the Kapaa Bypass Road to Kaumoo Road is scheduled for 2019, he said. And the state is working on traffic signal light synchronization to ease vehicles backing up during key hours of the day.
“That would help traffic flow tremendously,” he said.
The governor only had time for a few questions about infrastructure and science and technology in the classroom before needing to hurry to the airport to catch a plane back to Oahu.