Stay ahead of the economic curve

With stock market fluctuations, federal bailout plans, dismal visitor statistics and general uncertainty about the near- and long-term future of our economy, it’s hard to know what to do next.

For the business community, we have entered uncharted territory — and it looks like nothing but stormy seas ahead.

Over the years, however, Kaua‘i’s economy has proven itself to be resilient and resourceful, and many businesses are already reacting in ways to buffer unexpected losses in revenues and increases in costs.

While reaction is necessary, a preferred approach is to be proactive as well. So this week I’d like to share three opportunities that proprietors have in order to grow their business and reduce loss even in this chaotic environment.

— Protect what you have: At a recent Lihu‘e Business Association Meeting, Lt. Kaleo Perez of the Kaua‘i Police Department shared some insight into a spate of recent burglaries targeting businesses. When you are victimized by theft, you not only lose valuable items but often have to make costly repairs to doors, windows and walls.

Here’s some key advice from KPD:

∫ Install metal or solid wood doors.

∫ Bolt your safe to the floor or wall.

∫ Install alarm and video surveillance systems.

∫ Replace louvered windows.

∫ Be aware of anyone who might be “casing” your business for a future break-in.

∫ Report any suspicious activity to KPD or Crimestoppers by calling 241-1887. In tough economic times, you can’t afford unexpected costs that could be avoided!

— Set yourself apart: Even though visitor numbers are down, we still expect to welcome nearly a million travelers to Kaua‘i this year. The most successful businesses will find new and better ways to reach these travelers and offer experiences, products and services for which they will gladly pay.

So how do you set yourself apart from the pack? If you are a retailer, you can focus on carrying an enticing array of locally made products and display them prominently in your store. Visitors are searching for that unique gift and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t find exactly what they want from you. There is an event especially for wholesale buyers on Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Kukui Grove Shopping Center. Twenty-one members of the Kaua‘i Made program — representing food, jewelry, art, gift items, apparel and more — will be on hand to do business directly with you as a retailer or wholesale buyer. For more information on this event, call the Office of Economic Development at 241-4946.

— Broaden your horizons: One of the keys to growing our economy is to export more products than we import. Keeping dollars flowing into and throughout our economy, rather then sending them offshore for goods and services we could purchase here, must become a mindset for us if we are to move closer to economic sustainability.

Exporting is a huge opportunity, but it takes some savvy and preparation. You can learn more about the opportunities of exporting your goods and services at a free seminar on Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at JJ’s Broiler at Anchor Cove in Nawiliwili. This event is presented by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and is co-sponsored by numerous entities here, including our office and the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce. For more information, call 274-3141, ext. 62509#.

The most successful businesses are those that can, and do, react to changing situations and stay well-informed to seize any and all opportunities that come along.

• Beth Tokioka is director of Kaua‘i County’s Office of Economic Development. She can be reached at btokioka@kauai.gov

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