LIHU’E — Kauaians have sold Kaua’i-made products for years.
Now, Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste said his administration will attempt to bring more of their products to the markets of the world.
Proposed legislation that members of Baptiste’s administration sent to members of the Kaua’i County Council for approval last week would establish a new program sponsored by county officials, “Kaua’i Made.”
The program leaders would promote locally made products, give them more visibility, and establish criteria for participation by artists and business folks.
If the program gets off the ground, hundreds of artisans and craftspeople who use Kaua’i materials to make their goods could see their businesses grow tremendously, Baptiste said during a press conference in his office at the Lihu’e Civic Center.
The project could transform what is essentially a cottage industry into a new business industry on the island, Baptiste said.
“The program will present opportunities for business, and it will help strengthen business on the island,” Baptiste said.
A Web site will be set up, and promotional brochures will be put in racks throughout the island. In addition, goods will be put in storefronts of owners who join or support the program.
Kaua’i-made products were sold for many years at a store supported by leaders of the Kauai Products Council.
The difference between that program and the proposed program is the former “identified products, and the new program will market them, and bring retailers into partnerships,” Baptiste said.
Spearheading the program will be Beth Tokioka, director of the county’s Office of Economic Development.
Tokioka, who attended the press conference, said she has had a number of discussions with council members, and said their input was extremely valuable in crafting the bill.
“We look forward to continue working with the County Council in creating a solid framework for the ‘Kaua’i Made’ program, and if everything goes as planned, we hope to launch it in early 2006,” Tokioka said.
Tokioka pointed out that there are two major differences between the “Kaua’i Made” program and other, similar programs that were studied.
First, the “Kaua’i Made” program will offer permits to both retailers and product-makers, rather than focusing solely on products, she said.
Secondly, Kaua’i’s program will be supported by strong marketing efforts, Tokioka said.
“We’ll start with a Web site and promotional brochures in racks throughout the island,” said Tokioka. “Eventually, we hope to have the resources for a fully developed marketing and advertising campaign. This would be of tremendous benefit to the permitholders.”
Tokioka said quality products will be sought out.
“We really want to emphasize quality and authenticity in our ‘Kaua’i Made’ program,” she said. “Although we will be accepting a wide range of products, food, beauty, crafts and apparel, vendors must demonstrate that their products are either made on Kaua’i or made with Kaua’i materials, or both.”
The investment in the program for vendors and retailers as proposed in the bill would be minimal, $50 a year to list an individual product or product line, with retailers paying $75 per establishment, Tokioka said.
She believes the permit charges would be a “small investment for the marketing value participants will receive.”
Tokioka added that sponsor-ship by a government entity will lend credibility in the eyes of consumers.
Such products are in demand, Baptiste and Tokioka said.
According to a recent Kaua’i Visitors Bureau survey, more than 80 percent of departing visitors reported that shopping for Kaua’i products was one of the top three activities they engaged in during their visit to Kaua’i, just behind renting a car and going to the beach, Tokioka said.
“With over one million visitors on Kaua’i a year, there’s tremendous opportunity for our retail sector,” Tokioka said, adding that the average party of travelers is 2.08 persons.
“If you assume that each party spends roughly $50 on souvenirs, this translates to a $19 million-a-year industry,” she said.
Joanna Carolan, who owns the Banana Patch Studios in Hanapepe and has served on the “Kaua’i Made” advisory committee, said she likes the direction of the program.
“I am pleased to see that government has recognized that Kaua’i product-makers are a valuable part of what makes our island unique,” she said.
“This program will help get the word out to both visitors and residents about the many wonderful things that are made here on Kaua’i,” Carolan said.
“I believe that this program will benefit my business and other small businesses like mine. I look forward to being a part of it.”
Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau, said the program is good news for Kaua’i artists and operators of island businesses.
“We were so pleased to learn of the ‘Kaua’i Made’ program, and believe this initiative will provide another tool for us to market the island of Kaua’i as special and unique,” she said.
“We have found that our visitors are always looking to purchase products as a reminder of their trip, and oftentimes would like to take back locally-made items for friends and family,” Kanoho continued.
“The ‘Kaua’i Made’ branding will help people identify Kaua’i-made products readily, and provide them the reassurance the item truly comes from Kaua’i.”
Kanoho said KVB officials look forward to supporting the program through public-relations efforts, as well as with KVB’s work with travel agents and consumers.
Tokioka said the spark for the proposed program came from Baptiste two years ago.
“The mayor wanted to have a program similar to the successful Mountain Apple brand of products found in KTA stores on the Big Island,” Tokioka said.
Initial research was provided by members of the Kauai Agriculture Advisory Committee in 2004. In early 2005, Hawaii Tourism Authority officials provided a grant to create the program, which was matched by county Office of Economic Development leaders, Tokioka said.
Through a request-for-proposals process, leaders of the advertising and marketing firm of Starr Seigle Communications were awarded the contract to create the logo and a marketing program, she said.
An advisory committee, whose members are made up of local product-makers, retailers and marketers, was organized to assist OED and Starr Seigle leaders in the process, Tokioka added.
“We are pleased to support the ‘Kaua’i Made’ program because it in turn supports HTA’s mission to enrich and diversify Hawai’i’s attributes,” said Rex Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
“This will certainly enhance our marketing efforts, and add to the visitor experience for both the island of Kaua’i and the entire state.”
Those involved in setting up the program studied other “branding” programs, including the “Made in Hawai’i” and “Made in Maui” programs, along with branding efforts of state of Oregon officials, Tokioka said.
Tokioka also said proponents of the proposed program gleaned the most information from the “Made in Alaska” program.
“It’s been in existence for 20 years, and is codified extensively in Alaska’s state laws,” she said. “Looking at their documentation and talking to their coordinator was very helpful.”
The Kauai Economic Development Plan 2005-2015, which was published by county leaders last year, offered more reasons for the program, Tokioka said.
The study identified six proponents for economic growth and diversification, and authors of segments of the study related to arts and culture and food and agriculture recommended the establishment of a Kaua’i brand to promote growth.
“We feel that this provides a strong basis for stepping out and trying to make the ‘Kaua’i Made’ program a reality,” said Tokioka.
Folks interested in finding out more about the program should call the county Office of Economic Development at 241-6390.
- Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or email@example.com