Seed company takes center stage at Chamber event

LIHU‘E — Why is Syngenta in Hawai‘i?

It was one of the many questions Mark Phillipson, general manager of Syngenta Hawai‘i, posed and then answered as key note speaker at Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce’s 2nd Quarter Membership Meeting at Kaua‘i Beach Resort on Thursday.

“One of the reasons is we can plant 365 days a year here,” Phillipson said. “On the Mainland, we get one crop. Here, we can get three, sometimes four crops per year. It’s a stable environment and a climate that doesn’t change much … The climate and infrastructure that is here is very conducive for us.”

It contributes to the speed to market, he said. What would usually take 12 years of research on the Mainland can be achieved in Hawai‘i in just three or four years.

He called Kekaha Sugar’s 110-year-old, fully functioning irrigation system the eighth wonder of the world.

“The workforce that we have is primarily plantation folks who know how to grow corn and soy beans as opposed to sugar, so they pretty much just switched crops,” he said.

“We have two operations in Hawai‘i: one here in Kekaha and one on O‘ahu. Here we have approximately 150 full-time employees and about 40 or so contract employees, and we are out to bid right now  to put a $3.5 improvement that will include a parking lot, a left-hand turn lane and more storage facilities,” he said.

“So we are pleased to continue to build our infrastructure here.”

He said he enjoys being a part of the Chamber, the Farm Bureau and the community and believes it is what businesses need to do. 

In addition to the key note address and Kaua‘i Beach Resort’s lavish buffet, Kirk Nakamoto, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and Chamber President Randall Francisco presented scholarships to Sophia Saindon-Davies of Kapa‘a High School, Sarah Kukino of Kaua‘i High School, Clianne Mancia of Waimea High School and Jantil Leota of Kaua‘i Community College.

• Vanessa Van Voorhis, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or by emailing vvanvoorhis@thegardenisland.com.

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