• The Westside
The booming high-tech industry based around projects at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility is bringing change to the Westside. In today’s profile of the Westside economy The Garden Island’s Business Editor Barry Graham lays out the facts and figures of this growth.
The heart of the work at PMRF is the development of anti-missile defensive weapons that may one day protect our entire nation from the threat of nuclear war from rogue nations like North Korea. There are major questions about the validity of the technology, but the accuracy of the weapons is apparently growing, according to the results of recent tests that involved PMRF, naval ships and bases on Kwajalein and in California.
A visible sign of the work at PMRF is the new West Kaua‘i Technology & Visitors Center in Waimea town. The two high-tech centers in Waimea house contractors working at PMRF. Some of their work is beyond the scope ofz PMRF, and includes other high-tech projects, but at the core they are there to support projects at PMRF.
The value of real estate is also going up on the Westside, an area known historically for some of the lowest real estate prices on Kaua‘i. The Westside is now starting to catch up to the North Shore and Po‘ipu, in terms of prices.
The visitor industry is also doing well on the Westside, with Waimea Plantation Cottages a popular visitor destination, and the Koke‘e/Waimea Canyon area remaining a big draw for visitors to Kaua‘i.
Gay & Robinson’s sugar operations at Kaumakani are expanded to former Kekaha Sugar Co. lands to the west of Waimea. It is hoped that refined sugar from G&R’s plant can one day be marketed in Hawai‘i as a Kaua‘i product. The tenacity of the G&R executives and workers is commendable as they work hard and smart to keep Kaua‘i’s last sugar plantation alive. The tourism side of G&R is doing well, too, and expanding, with tours of the sugar factory and fields, plus unique tours to Makaweli Canyon becoming popular with visitors.
This week the president of Pioneer Hi-Bred visited Kaua‘i, underscoring his company’s commitment to seed-corn research and planting on Kaua‘i. The work with “bio-crops” on the Westside is being carefully checked over by both the growers and the opponents of high-tech bio-crops. The growers site abundant crops being grown without many insect and plant-disease problems, thus providing impoverished nations with new hope of feeding their people, plus a more secure future for America’s farmers, while opponents site the uncertainty of the safety of using human-altered seeds for crops we rely on for our food.
Overall, the Westside’s economy is at a better place then it has been since the boom days of sugar-growing, when sugar mills lined the coast from Numila west to Kekaha.